Jeremy works three jobs. He has his primary job as a clerk for a transit system, he drives two hours a day for Uber, and he works from home as a virtual tutor for English as a second language program. I might add that he has three young daughters and is a single father after the passing of his wife from ovarian cancer. What makes him courageous isn’t his occupation, nor medals pinned to his chest, nor his professional sports exploits.
He left a high-stress marketing job for the transit job, so he didn’t have to travel far from home; his partial hearing loss made him ineligible for the military and any medals he may have received.
What he has is courage. He gets suitable benefits, his daughters excel academically, and he starts each day with purpose, prayer, and more than anything else, gratitude.
Yes, he becomes sad. Yes, he shops for his clothes at the thrift store to make sure his children dress well and no, he never feels sorry for himself.
A Surprising Concept
On Saturday mornings, as my wife and I sip coffee sitting on our front porch, we see a woman of about 60 years of age walking in the neighborhood. It is obvious she suffered a terrible stroke. She has learned to walk, albeit slowly, and with the aid of a unique cane. Her right arm is somewhat withered, and her stature is a bit bent. It takes her about 30 minutes to walk from her house to our house and back. I have no idea what she does for a living, but I promised myself that should I ever write about courage, I would certainly place her at the top of my list.
Courage is all around us, and you can find it in the most unlikely of places and interactions. If I were to say to Jeremy, or to the woman who walks past our house, or to anyone of the people I have met in my life who recovered from terrible tragedies that they were courageous, I am positive they would shake their heads and disagree with me. I guarantee it. For that is one of the remarkable things about brave people; they are the first to deny their courage.
Not long ago, I heard an NFL football player, a massive man, being interviewed along with his “100-pound” mother. The player had just returned to the field following a lengthy rehabilitation, and the sportscaster praised him for his courage as the player started to answer, tears formed in his eyes and cascaded down his face.
“My mom is courageous. I’m the oldest of six, and she broke her back to provide for us. Two of my sisters are in medical school.”
The player, had recently purchased a home for his mom.
There is a video about the combat veteran, winner of a Bronze Star and other commendations who was praised for his bravery. He immediately deflected the praise and thanked his wife for being the force that held the family together in his absence.
I am reminded of the young woman, Malala Yousafzai, who defied the Taliban as a young girl in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. For her activism, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She never backed down and became an international symbol, not for herself, but for all of the young women denied fundamental human rights. She is quick to point out the courage of others, of those who have endured far more and have given far more in their struggles.
Courage is everywhere. Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you. Bravery means you inhale courage, exhale fear.