By Bill Willson
I seriously doubt I could write anything original about courage. I can only write about what the word means to me based on my feelings and what I have experienced, or read. Some say courage is the absence of fear. Frequently I see tee-shirts with: “No Fear!” splashed boldly across the front. As if bathing oneself with this slogan will make the wearer courageous, like deodorant makes you smell good. Somehow this motto has never been believable to me. I believe there are only three kinds of people in threatening situations, there are those who are fearful, those in clinical denial, and those who lie about the fear. To me real courage is staying calm in the face of danger, despite the fear. Few people ever have an opportunity to face a real test of courage. So, is courage a latent quality that is hidden just beneath the surface of my character? Will I ever know if I have it or not? Must I wait until I am looking into the maw of my worst fear, and challenged to stand up for what I believe? Maybe! But, I believe that the real stuff, from which courage comes, are the little day to day things I do to get the job done, and to cope with the endless procession of challenges life lays at my door.
Courage is the common denominator of life. Courage is what gives me the strength to get up every day and do my work. There are those who haven’t really decided what work is, and they probably never will. They are people who seem to drift through life taking the path of least resistance. These people are good at making excuses, and will work harder to get out of work than they would have to if the work was simply done. Sometimes if they are lucky, they meet someone who motivates them. If they are extremely fortunate, they will be successful in spite of their lack of courage.
I think that those who live life as it comes, and meet it at gut level, have courage, and those who side step life, don’t. Courage then is bravery in the face of our boring everyday life. It’s making the mortgage payment every month. It’s getting up every morning and doing our job. It’s chewing the meat when it’s tough and remembering to thank the cook for the meal.
Everyone dies, but the tragedy is dying without having really lived. To die without having your life stand for something, in deed, or contribution to humanity, is not living. When you do your job, chew the tough meat, and pay the mortgage, do you contribute to humanity, or stand for something? Yes! That is what the working people of the world have always done. The next time you drive down the endless interstate, ride a rapid transit system, land at an airport, take a cruise, or flip on a light switch, stop a moment, and look around you. Try to imagine all the work that went into the vast infrastructure you are using. Humanity takes these things for granted. When you use these things, remember the countless thousands of workers earning their daily bread so their families could live a better life. They did this, so their children could ascend a notch on the ladder of our socioeconomic culture. If they were successful, their children are their monuments to the courageous lives they lived. Even if they failed with their children, the monument of their work remains as a monument to their courageous daily living.