Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme. The theme for October is Courage. This month’s post is offered by Betty Hartnett.
Courage (Oxford Dictionary):
1. The ability to do something that frightens one.
2. Strength in the face of pain or grief.
I have never thought of myself as courageous. I always thought of having courage as being bold. And I’m not bold! But as I look at the definitions from Oxford, I see that I have done things that have frightened me, such as being the only child in a family of seven to go off to college at eighteen, basically cut off from family. I had no money or transportation, only a scholarship that covered tuition and books. I am a mother of two and all mothers know that giving birth and raising children involves pain and lots of frightening moments (but always worth it). I learned to ski in my late thirties and for a while I could say, “Black Diamonds beware!” (That thought no longer surfaces, but I still ski.)
My current personal courage challenges have centered around having the strength to face grief. My parents are gone, as are two of my siblings. Three of my siblings face profoundly debilitating health issues, which are courage challenges for them as well as challenges for my sister and me who can only “be” with them, with no power to change anything regarding their health. I have learned that “courage does not always roar.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)
In today’s world, courage is a necessity for remaining alive and remaining sane. With photos and videos from even remote parts of the world we are made aware of tragedies inconceivable. The courage that the Ukrainian people have had to survive I cannot fathom. And their grief at the killing and torture of their countrymen, neighbors, friends, even their family, is unimaginable. So is the horrendous treatment of prisoners for years at Guantanamo, though we don’t hear a lot about it every day, as we do about Ukraine. Neither do we hear a lot about the suffering of so many people in our own country who have housing or food or safety issues. How do they all have the courage to go on?
How do people maintain/develop courage to face frightening situations, the stamina to suffer loss? How did people like Harriet Tubman, the Everest climbers, Malala Yousafzai, and others act with such courage?
I want to posit two possible reasons. First, they were not strangers to their challenges and threats. They had faced their fears many, many times. No one climbs Everest without having climbed other mountains hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times and learning from these experiences.
Second, is their belief system including knowing and believing that they were/are doing the right thing(s). When we know we are doing the “right” thing, what the situation requires, or what our religious or other beliefs call us to do, we have more resolve to face fears and even grief.
I should also add a third, what we hear many Sundays. Shared sorrows are sorrows divided. Sharing grief and fears gives a person more courage to go on. I have found this to be true as I’m sure that you all have also.
— Betty Hartnett
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees