I don’t think I would consider myself a very ‘brave’ person in the most obvious sense of the word. I don’t like watching scary films, I am not great with major change and I am always waking my husband up in the night when I think I hear a strange noise. When he went to Calcutta for six nights it was a major challenge for me to stay in the house on my own (which is frankly pathetic at my age, but I put it down to just having a very vivid imagination).
My mum tells me that I was a very strange mix as a child. On one hand, I refused to do anything unless I knew I could do it properly. When learning to walk I didn’t take just one first step; I walked down the whole hallway of our home. However, she says I was a nightmare crossing roads, I was quite reckless on holidays when we walked along high edges near rivers, and I once rode my bike down the rockery into the blackberry brambles at the bottom. She never worried about my older sister when she started to travel on her own on buses but she did when I went with her as I seemed to have no road sense. A friend at uni once told me I shouldn’t have been born in the age of the car (which is quite worrying when I have taken hundreds of children out on school trips). But now I am far from reckless, and if anyone suggested a bungee jump I would run a mile.
However, as I have grown older (and stayed alive) I have come to realise that bravery and courage take on very different forms in life. I was swimming at the pool one day, and in my peripheral I saw a foot edge out around the corner of the wall of the changing rooms. At an extremely slow pace the rest of the body followed, and gradually into view came a man who could barely walk as he was so overweight. He almost limped to the pool and took what seemed like forever to make his way down the steps into the water. What tremendous courage that must have taken for him to do that – I was in awe. I have also sat with women who have been in abusive relationships and who have managed to get themselves and their children out, into the unknown, but safe from their persecutor – that is also incredibly brave.
The other day I was on a course at Beacon House, a place where adults and children who have gone through trauma can access various therapies. On the wall I saw a quote by Mary Ann Rachmacher:
Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
At times, getting up each day to face the same challenges, the same heartache or the same circumstances can be an act of courage that, though never applauded or celebrated, is a feat that can only be described as awesome and incredible. Sometimes all a person can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other when they are going through difficult times. I am not brave enough to do many things in life, but I have experienced depression and know the effort of just getting out of bed. Some people need great courage to walk into a room full of new people, go back to work after a long career break or maybe challenge someone over something they have said or done that was unkind or unfair. Still for others it will be facing illness, coping with the challenge of a family breakdown or caring for a disabled family member.
Posters and pictures with quotes about courage and bravery often show images such as a lion or someone standing on a high mountain. We can watch films celebrating courage or read newspaper articles detailing acts of daring, but bravery takes on many forms, each impressive in its own right. We will all have different things that scare or overwhelm us and, no matter what that thing is, if you stand up, if you face it, if you perservere and don’t let it take you down, then you, my friend, are brave.
I learned that courage is not the absence of fear,but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela.
Written by Rosalyn Satchell