“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” –Bengamin Mee “We Bought a Zoo”
There are certain words in our language that I’ve felt get over-used and/or misused, usually because I think the concept behind some of them is so misunderstood (Don’t get me started on “positive mental attitude”!) The word “courage” has made it high on this list for me, especially lately.
First of all, I need to state here that I’m no more of an “authority” on courage than I am on quantum physics. Sadly, I never served my country. I have never been a police officer or a firefighter. And riding bicycles through the back roads of Indiana has made me more afraid of dogs than I was when I was 4 years old! But, there are people out there who have suggested that me going on really long bike rides (and stuff like that) somehow amounts to courage. I wish it did! If you want to equate bike touring with courage, just look at my friends Sandro, Phil and Nick. What THEY are doing goes beyond courage, straight to INSANITY, but I digress. What I’m doing is tourism. A guy taking 4 years to prepare for the most awesome vacation ever & then using a girl (a family) who does display courage, in spades, to justify the whole thing….just doesn’t qualify.
I’ve spoken a lot on my Facebook page over the past several weeks about Emme and her courage. But I also need to touch upon her parents, Chris and Liz, and her brothers Michael and Jonathon and at least point out their courage. Not to diminish one little bit what Emme has been going thru with her Pancreatitis, but I’ve said for years that we “sick people” have it easy in many ways compared to the people who support us. We often have entire teams of medical professionals looking out for us and wonderful medications which can, with the press of a button, give us a wonderful “Calgon, take me away” feeling. But it’s the people who support those who are fighting illness who often are the forgotten heroes who must summon all of the courage. I’ve seen Emme’s big brothers (Michael & Jonathon), kids themselves, devoting all of their energy toward looking out for thier little sister in need. But what it truly impressive and inspiring is the courage that Emme’s parents (Chris & Liz) have shown. I’m not even referring to the courage they’ve shown every day “holding down the fort”–several of them, in fact. I’m talking about the courage they showed in setting ego and pride aside and asking for help. Financial help. Then accepting that help with such grace and dignity. But for their courage, nobody would be accusing me of having any right about now. This much I do know for sure!
Several weeks ago, after an incredibly serendipitous chance meeting of Wendy and Steve Kern, I learned about their son Adam and his story. I’m not sure that I’ve heard a more impressive story in recent years, where this young man took adversity and “failure” and turned it into something truly special. Adam, a track and cross country star at University of Michigan was cut after his freshman year. As devastating a blow as this was to him at the age of 19, he drew from what must have been a deep well of his own courage and helped create Athletes Connected, a program designed to help student athletes facing mental health challenges by reducing stigma and promoting positive coping skills. Think this isn’t an important venture? Take a couple of minutes and watch this video. Then stop for a minute and let the notion soak in of just how much influence athletes have in our culture. If THEY can have problems and ask for help, is there anyone who can’t? When real courage is shown, it inspires others to do something positive….like this.
So…people throw around the word “courage” a lot and I’m no different that way. And that’s an awesome thing, considering how virtuous courage is. But (not to self here), rolling over & exposing your soft vulnerable “underside” often take more courage than anything. And, because of that, it’s also where the most benefit for yourself and others exists.
At least that’s how it seems after living in my shoes for 5 decades….