As I was driving home this morning and looking at all the beautiful fall colors, something made me think of the Cowardly Lion and his cry for “courage”.
What is the first vision that pops into your head when you hear the word, “courage”? For me it is the sight of a rescue worker carrying a small child in their arms away from some kind of danger.
Don’t most of us associate “courage” with firefighters, police officers, and soldiers? Anyone who risks harm to themselves for someone else is courageous in my book but what about all the rest of us? Do we ever perform acts of courage and not even recognize them?
I have always hoped that if I were ever in a situation where an act of courage was demanded that I would rise to the occasion and do what I could to help but in reality my first response would be paralyzying fear and then to flee. I have often prayed that I would be given supernatural courage when I truly needed it for to be a coward would be unbearable to me.
The Wizard tells the Cowardly Lion, “There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger.” “True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.”
Ever been afraid? If you did not let that fear stop you from doing that which you feared, then you my friend were courageous. Truly courageous.
I look back at all the times I was afraid, and on occasion even terrified, and still I went forth (sometimes kicking and screaming and not wanting to) and did I think of myself as courageous? No, of course not. I chastised myself for being afraid in the first place. Why are so quick to see a negative in our being and so blinded to a positive?
Each and every day we are faced with challenges. Some take more courage than others to face. I think of the person who is given a diagnosis of a serious illness or a reoccurrence of a seemingly cured one. The child who goes to school every day knowing that they will be the brunt of bullying. The teen who is being pressured to drink or do drugs. The young man who has to decide to join a gang or not. The unhappy husband who turned down an opportunity to have an office affair. The young woman who chooses not to abort her unwanted baby. I could go on and on for days pointing out how much courage it takes just to live our lives but I will let the words of President John F. Kennedy speak for me:
“Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we should not forget those acts of courage with which men…have lived. The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must-in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures-and that is the basis of all human morality….In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience-the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men-each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient-they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”
JOHN F. KENNEDY, Profiles in Courage