Over the years, I’ve realized that many of the stories I love (and tell) have a few things in common. Courage. Heroism. The longing for adventure. And, more often than not, sacrifice.
In the Disney fairy tales I watched as a child, sacrifice was portrayed as a one time decision. Ariel chooses to leave her whole world behind for Eric, and it only takes some minor wrestling with the idea to decide that it’s worth giving up. After all, she loves him, so why would it be a hard choice?
As I grew up, so did the stories. The sacrifices were harder to make. Spock dies of radiation poisoning to save the ship and its crew. A man gives the longest and best sales pitch to Death to keep him from the appointment with the little girl upstairs and then the man gives himself up in her place. Arwen gives up immortality to be with Aragorn.
But it wasn’t until I was older that I came to truly understand sacrifice. Real sacrifice is difficult. The initial decision might be easy, but it’s not a one-time decision. In many cases, it’s a choice that has to be made daily. Sometimes it feels good and right and you know that it’s the best thing to do. But other times, it’s easy to question it, to think that maybe the cost is too great, to wonder why you even had to make the choice in the first place.
Sacrifice hurts. Sometimes it hurts more than other times.
But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about sacrifice, it’s that it’s worthwhile. Sometimes the bittersweet parts of life are the most beautiful. Joy is intermixed in the sorrow, and joy comes out on top in the end.