Profiles in Courage

The following was adapted from our final Campfire talk during Summer ‘17. With our families in Houston and South Florida dealing with the forces of nature, I thought it would be appropriate. All of our thoughts and prayers are with y’all!

It takes courage to…. Remain Hopeful

A bit more than 100 years ago, Ernest Shakleton decided he wanted to be the first to cross the Antarctic by land.  This was well before good heaters, engines, and safe/fast boats as we know them today.

The goal was a big deal in England and elsewhere. In fact, his advertisement for staff is almost as famous as what later happened:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant threat of danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

Shakelton and the 27 men signed on set sail on his boat Endurance for the South Pole. All was going well until disaster struck at the very edge of Antartica – the Endurance, one of the strongest boats on the seas at the time, was trapped by ice.

Over the following week, the boat was slowly crushed and destroyed leaving 27 men thousands of miles from home, stuck on the ice with little food, few supplies, and no ability to call for help.

How does Shakelton respond? The expedition’s doctor documented the explorer’s words:

“It’s a pity but that cannot be helped. It’s the men we have to think about.”

Over the next 22 months, Shakleton’s team lived on the ice, battled the elements, made an impossible sea voyage to an island 800 miles away to find help for the whole party, climbed over and down a mountain having not eaten in weeks, found help, and sailed back immediately to get his comrades.

The most amazing thing? Every one of Shakleton’s men made it home safely. His courage led to hope not only for himself but also for those for whom he cared.

It takes courage to…. Stand Up for What’s Right

In 1955, our country was not in a good place. There were terrible laws in some states requiring people to sit in different spots, use different water fountains, and go to different schools because of the color of their skin.

One woman, Rosa Parks, had been affected by this system of repression for her 42 years of life. Coming home one evening from her job as a seamstress, Mrs. Parks was asked to move from her seat to make room for a white man. She said ‘No.’

She knew what would happen and it did – she was arrested and taken to jail. Can you believe that? Just for not moving to the back of the bus.

Some thought she must have been tired, the reason for her not moving. Mrs. Parks responded:

“I wasn’t physically tired… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

This was a courageous thing to do. What is courage but being fearful and doing the right thing anyway?

But, Mrs. Parks was not done yet.

Later that evening, after being bailed out of prison, Mrs. Parks agreed to be the focal point in a lawsuit brought against the City of Birmingham and the face of a boycott that lasted for over 300 days.

In the end, through threats and difficulty, right was awarded and those awful laws were changed.

It takes courage to…. Be Vulnerable

A very smart person named Dr. Brene Brown has spent a long time studying the important topics of courage, belonging, worth, and vulnerability. Let’s start with courage:

It comes from ‘coer’ which is latin for ‘heart.’ In Dr. Brown’s words, courage means to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

And here’s the thing – you are not perfect. You already know this. You have a few habits your want to change, a thought or two you’d like to not have, automatic responses that you would like to be different.

So, you have to have the courage to be imperfect. This takes compassion to be kind to yourself, first. Then, you can build connection to others as a result of your authenticity. But to be authentic, you have to be vulnerable.

It’s not fun but it’s necessary. And, you don’t get a guarantee that it will go your way. But here’s the important thing Dr. Brown found out – vulnerability is birthplace of love, joy, creativity, and belonging.

So, in order to ‘belong’ you have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, you have to be courageous.

The Need for Courage

As that really old dude said thousands of years ago, “Courage is the first of human values because it makes all others possible.” (It was Aristotle.)

The good news? Courage is like a muscle – the more you use it, the more you’ll have. Start small and start soon. While you might not ever be trapped on the ice for two years, you will have moments in your life that call for a courageous decision made or action taken.

We wish for all of our families (and everyone else) involved with recovering from hurricanes a quick and safe return to their lives.

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