What is courage? A highly regarded and sought after virtue. We have heard numerous stories of courage from David & Goliath to our armed forces protecting our borders from terrorists. Courage has always been seen as something only a few brave people exhibited. Not everyone’s cup of tea, the brave few who act during times of crises and life threatening situations. The fire fighter who jumps into the fire to rescue a child or the rescue teams at Mt.Everest who risk their lives to save stranded tourists and climbers. All these are fine examples of courage and they are worthy of the salute.
But this pandemic has openend a new face of courage. Ordinary people have showed up for the human collective, and risking exposure to the virus everyday. They are not dying of bullets or missiles, but they are sacricifing themselves everyday. The hospital cleaning staff, the garbage collectors, the nurses and doctors, the mailmen, the milk man, the food and grocery delivery guys, the transport guys and drivers, the countless lab technicians working 18 hr shifts to test thousands of samples. Imagine the risk everytime the lab technician opens a blood sample. All this is happening in silence and shows us how we just cannot survive without each other, money doesnt matter, we need another human being to survive and thrive truely.
A poem recently caught my attention, Courage by Edgar Albert Guest
Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment’s flash;
It isn’t an instantaneous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
Or the final tug at a slipping rope;
But it’s something deep in the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.
Courage isn’t the last resort
In the work of life or the game of sport;
It isn’t a thing that a man can call
At some future time when he’s apt to fall;
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
When the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
Must always have courage within his soul.
Courage isn’t a dazzling light
That flashes and passes away from sight;
It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
With the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue,
It’s part of him when he has work to do.
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.
Courage was never designed for show;
It isn’t a thing that can come and go;
It’s written in victory and defeat
And every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
Back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
It’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.
Edgar Albert Guest
This poem got me thinking, what is the real nature of courage? We exhibit it everyday actually without ever realizing. Personally, a very difficult health challenge showed me that courage is not limited to few heroic acts , courage is a constant, a part of one’s character, we seldom give ourselves the credit for it. As someone who knows physical pain too well, while listening to this poem being recited, it struck me that I have had courage all along, to manage pain and show up for work and make time for my passion of writing and podcasting. To have been patient with my health challenges and get out of bed on days I just didn’t want to , courage has always been there. Through various decisions and cross roads of life, courage has always been there, but it was never this obvious as I suddenly found it staring back at me. I studied in a school with the moto ” Dare & Do” and somewhere this was in my subconscious I think. And I started to identify courage in the people around me, so many many examples of tremendous courage in patience and endurance.
To excel with what has been given to you is couragePooja Damle
I think it is time courage is brought out of the golden drapes and out into daily life. Not all of us have courage in all aspects of life, but we have showcased it atleast once in life. I have seen a close friend, whose life was turned 360 degrees, in a matter of hours due to a rare medical condition and I have watched this person show extraordinary courage through his recovery. I would not have been able to do this, as gracefully as he did. Another close friend, who lost a life partner at a young age and is a single parent, not only survived but is thriving with tremendous courage. Showing by example that life can go on and can actually be turned around.
I want to acknowledge countless individuals sufferging from anxiety, depression, claustophobia etc. showing courage in the time of a lockdown, losing their external support systems. Trust me, for a person with claustrophobia, a simple elevator ride requires every ounce of will power. It goes unnoticed because noone understands the nature of the fears and the courage to surmount them.
Courage manifests in so many places, often times in not so obvious places. Courage needs to be recognized in the nooks and crannies of life. This needs to be cultivated in children, empowering them by showing its true side. The line from the poem Courage mentioned earlier, is so apt for the condition today. “It’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait, With the patience to work and the strength to wait“. Patience seems to be another manifestation of courage, patience for our bodies to heal, patience to mend broken relationships, patience for wars to end, and just at times patience to wait for the tides to turn in life. So many children in the world take growth hormone injections everyday for years , and some of them learn to take it themselves. Countless diabetes patients around the world take insulin injections every single day, all this is courage.
I want people to recognize courage in the not so obvious or taken for granted places and more importantly within themselves. Pat yourself on the back once in a while, praise yourself on the courage you have manifested in your life. Imagine an elobrate award ceremony red carpet event and give yourself that trophy. We are so wrapped up sometimes in our modesty that courage hides in plain sight. So think of the times in life you might have shown courage and not really given yourself due credit. Write it down and try and understand courage in your life. This is by no means to feed the ego or to get into a superiority contest. All of us have various degrees of challenges and if you compare your life challenges with another, there will always be someone more courageous than you. That is absolutely alright, but understanding our own inner strength, deepening our self respect and cultivating conscious living is the goal. Once you do this , you will start recognizing the courage within your own family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and a natural respect will develop towards them as well. Imagine a society that is so intune with each other’s challenges, now that would be a truely evolved universal consciousness. We may be far away from this, but we can start with ourselves, right now. A salute to the courage in all of you!