About courage

Friday , November 02, 2012 - 12:43 PM

John W. Reynolds

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is a time when we think of courageous men and women who have served and are serving in our military and a time to honor them. It takes courage to serve; especially now when the world is in conflict and our military is at risk in many ways and many places. Other special days of the year are appropriate for honoring courage: Memorial Day, Patriots Day, Independence Day, Mothers Day — yes Mothers Day! Can you think of anyone more courageous than a mother defending her family? I can’t.

Usually we think of courage in terms of the military, police, firefighters, and rescuers. Someone pulling a drowning person from a swollen river or carrying an injured hiker down the mountain are vivid examples of courage. But, many more examples can be cited that don’t fit the usual.

A teenage girl courageously risks her life in Pakistan for the sake of women’s education is a recent example that seems as unfathomable as the persecution she faces. It can be successfully argued that running for public office requires courage; putting yourself out there for scorn and criticism takes courage as does standing by your values and principles once elected.

A question to consider is; "How would you respond in a situation in which there is a high probability of being injured or killed?" It might depend on the urgency of situation; is it one of imminent danger to you or family members, or is the situation one that you have knowingly placed yourself in such as law enforcement or defending your country? These factors have a bearing on how you would likely respond.

In a situation where you are a prisoner of war with the threat of harm or death ever present and the threat continues day in and day out for months or years because you are helpless to defend yourself, your courage likely would be taken up with merely surviving another day. Or in a situation where you are actively engaged in battle with the enemy for a briefer time, your courage would be focused on simply reaching your objective and surviving this battle.

If you can place yourself in either of these situations and can feel the reality of how you would respond, then you can have a greater appreciation of those who have had to respond and how they summoned courage. In reality, some didn’t find courage; they never had the opportunity because they were killed before their courage was put to the ultimate test. Still others might have survived one test or more only to become a statistic in another test.

Courage is not exclusively among those in eminent danger; a different courage is required for those who wait at home, who keep their fears and anxieties in check; who keep the homes and families going and may not have a timetable to go by. Even with technology that allows military families to communicate more freely than in the past, the wait can seem interminable. A very special courage is required for those who wait.

People in the public eye, elected officials, celebrities including professional athletes, actors, media talk show hosts, etc. also require a certain type of courage due to uncertainty of fan reactions. Recently a candidate for high office was slapped in the face by a "supporter," he had the restraint not to return the favor to her. They must endure heckling, "raspberries," verbal abuse and even dodging the items thrown at them. Most importantly they must have the courage to stand for what’s right even if the cause is unpopular. Our founding fathers had it; the colonists were not unanimous in wanting to break ties with England though it was a popular cause for most. Men like Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson and others risked it all in standing against a powerful nation. Had our independence not been won these men, their families and many others would have faced the most severe consequences.

It seems the perfect situation for courage. As Nov. 6, Election Day, draws near, we might think of the courage our predecessors demonstrated that gave us the power to vote and ask ourselves; have we responded courageously in making an informed decision to vote? It really matters that we participate intelligently in the political process, just ask someone who’s a veteran.

Reynolds lives in Pleasant View. He is a retired businessman and volunteers for various community projects including building and donating children’s rocking chairs to special education students in elementary schools

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