What Is Brave

When we hear the word brave the first thing that comes to mind is a very traditional picture. I think we all think of soldiers, of police, of first responders. And they are indeed brave, most of them, most of the time.

And then we perhaps think of those amazing civilians that we read about that step up in the face of danger. The teachers that sacrifice themselves for students in an active shooter situation. Folks that jump in to save someone drowning, in or out of a sinking car. Just watch the news for the rare good story.

These days we think of the medical people who continue to go to work despite the widespread nature of the COVID 19 virus. They put themselves at risk and often are separated from their families. And the teachers, again, who have adjusted as best they can and try to keep our children on track through virtual means.

There is a much quieter version of brave that we often don’t think of and don’t acknowledge. There is the single mom with three children struggling to make ends meet. There is the student that stands up for a bullied friend. There is a group of teens that go to Haiti to help rebuild. There are doctors that provide low cost or free healthcare to the under served. There are the volunteers in soup kitchens and homeless shelters. There are folks that bring meals to seniors, shut ins, who can’t get out for food.  And there are so many others.

I found it odd that when I made the decision to become single at sixty three a vast number of people told me how brave I was. As if growing old alone is an act of courage. I didn’t feel it that way. It was just necessary. And being single is not a state of being that should invoke pity. Doing what is right for your life and your spirit shouldn’t be an act of bravery but in today’s world where complacency and mediocrity is the norm, I suppose it can seem that way.

These days there are some renewed kinds of brave. Young people facing anonymous armed forces, marching to be heard. People banning the confederate flag even where it has been revered. While it is only leveling the field in a way, it still takes brave. In the same way that it took brave for the first professional athletes to come out as gay, it was only leveling but it took brave. These days, it feels brave to go to the grocery store. A small thing and you aren’t likely to be tear gassed. But it feels like brave.

The world is full of brave if you just look around. There are those smallest acts of kindness and bravery, and there are the big things where hope to change the world lives. Be brave, start small and work up to it. And one day it will be the norm and won’t seem quite so extraordinary.

Let the memory and spirit of John Lewis be an inspiration to bravery, march on.

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Things Your Father Wants You To Know #2 ~ Serve Your Country

In the news lately has been the story of an extraordinary coach at a little college in New York, Maritime in the Bronx. Clayton Kendrick-Holmes’ players wear principles on their jerseys instead of names; “family”, “respect”, “honesty”, etc. And he has led his unknown team to a potential championship. He learned, in July, that he was being called up by the Navy (he is a reservist) to serve in Afghanistan. He doesn’t think of himself as extraordinary and he did not question his deployment, it is what he signed up for.

Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. It is clear that you are not likely to be a soldier, you are not a fighter, like your mother you are an arguer, a word person. But freedom has, historically, required soldiers. I served, your grandfathers served, Ruben and Big Mike served. That requires respect.

Not all policemen are honest, not all firemen are brave. But those who serve in these direct ways deserve the ultimate respect. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. Not all service demands such great sacrifice. But most service demands some sacrifice, of time, of money, of self.

But there are many ways of soldiering. All over America kids are earning college scholarships by giving back, working for Americorps or Vista, helping with the environment, public safety, literacy, housing, poverty, to name just a few. Some are working with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for low income families. Some work with kids at the local library, upgrading literacy skills. Others serve in their churches, mosques and temples, volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

As great as the need is worldwide, and it is great indeed, there is great need here at home as well. You know I believe that you should always ask questions of authority, develop your own ideas and talk about them. Our democracy gives you the freedom to do those things. No matter how much you disagree with our leaders, current policies or the way in which others see things, the very right to disagree, out loud and in public, is the freedom you have here that so many others don’t. Freedoms have a price. For soldiers it may be their lives, for others time or money.

So remember, it is important to give back in some way, to express your gratitude in a concrete manner for the “blessings of liberty” which are not equally enjoyed yet in this country. Like the coach who found a way to serve before he was called up, serve willingly. To help make those blessings equal, to provide for those less fortunate, is a worthy endeavor, however you choose to do it.

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