What Is Courage?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2011 in Daily Blog, Random | Comments Off

As an adrenaline junkie who likes to think he sticks his neck out a little bit farther than others, though not as far as some, I have often put myself in scary positions. To a certain extent I have thrived on them and searched them out. Does it take courage to face up to the potential of crazy decisions? I suppose, but over the recent years I have become more attuned to the bravery of day-to-day life that often are not acknowledged. A recent death in my family highlighted that bravery for me and the profound impacts that those acts can have on communities.

In September my Uncle Ed died. I traveled to the funeral and was amazed at the community support and outreach. To enter the church for the service I walked through a presentation of local fire fighters and paramedics. I listened to people’s remembrances of Ed. They mentioned his kindness, that he was loving, diplomatic, an ice cream connoisseur, and an integral part of the community. Throughout the week another descriptor came to my mind— courage. Throughout his life Ed had the courage to address life changes and illness, and he showed the special kind of courage that those willing to be active in their community demonstrate.

Ed’s initial attempt at college resulted in a challenge that would have had a heavy impact on many, he flunked out. Ed came from a family of academic achievement and success, so to fail out did not meet family expectations. Ed carried forward and went on to earn his college degree, as well as a doctorate in animal science.

Several times Ed faced such life dramatic and life altering changes. At the age of 37 he had a heart attack, one that resulted in a car crash. He recovered from both the crash and the heart attack and lived to the age of 64. On more than one occasion Ed faced the loss of his job and livelihood, and he was forced to reinvent himself. He learned new skills and trained for entirely new positions with which he had no prior experience. To face those challenges, to be willing to work outside your traditional box, that takes courage.

During one of his reinventions Ed became an EMT-I, learning difficult new skills. But that is not what impresses me most.  First responders are often hailed as heroes during big events and dramatic situations but they then fall rapidly back into obscurity. Their day-to-day courage for the most part gets overlooked. It takes a special type of grace under pressure to volunteer to respond to the hardest, most sensitive situations. It takes more courage to volunteer to help the sick and injured in a small town, where you often end up working to save neighbors, friends, and family. Later, you bump into and face the family members of what are deemed your successes and failures. Every day, every call, volunteers show a special courage, above and beyond, helping those who need it.  Later they don’t get to disappear into the crowd.  Ed was one of those volunteers who accepted the weight of responsibility. Thank goodness there are people like Ed.

It seems odd, however, that Ed didn’t always think of himself as a success. He was proud of what he had done, but he was modest.  As we stood in the church and listened to his community talk about his contributions we were reminded of his contributions.  They were recognized and appreciated.  The most notable measures were that presentation of first responders, the sight of more lining the sanctuary, the overflowing church.  My family and I were moved. In an era where success has been identified by money and material goods, Ed proves that true success builds quietly and may be difficult to measure, but it is recognized.   You can feel it. Ed may not have known how successful he was, how courageous he was, but it is clear that he will be well remembered for it.





Photo By: Kathy Langmuir

Quote Found at: http://nowisgoodblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/find-a-little-courage/