Brave. When you think about brave, what comes to mind? Ghandi? Martin Luther King, Jr.? A military hero (lots of those!) Someone who defeats their personal demons? What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever seen? What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
Brave people separate themselves from the masses.
When I think about bravery, I think of the nondescript Chinese man, in a white shirt, holding a shopping bag, who stepped into the midst of a tank parade in Tiananmen Square (click here to see the photo). For a moment, it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be. Then, the rolling tank came to a stop. This man found his brave, and stood up not only to the Chinese military, but to the entire political system. I also think of the men and women who survived the Holocaust. Or those who fought back at Pearl Harbor, when it was attacked without warning on a soft Sunday morn. Or those who ran into the burning towers on 9-11. We may never personally witness or commit such overt acts of bravery, but we are nonetheless called upon to demonstrate courage. Quite simply, life demands it.
“Show me how big your brave is!” cries singer Sara Bareilles in her anthem single, Brave. It’s like saying, “Show me how big your heart is!” Show me how big your brave is. What a challenge – we all have moments, situations, and relationships that demand courage. Sometimes they require action, and sometimes, the bravest thing to do is to do nothing – to choose not to react.
One of my first memories of being brave was when I umpired a girl’s softball league. I was young – maybe 13? My father had died a few years before; he and I shared a love of baseball, so I was drawn to anything associated with it. I had a ball/strike counter that I had gotten for free by saving up Bazooka bubble gum wrappers. I was confident in my ability to call balls and strikes, so I signed up for the job.
I don’t know if it was my first game or my fifth, but in the middle of a game, one of the coaches had an utter fit. He was screaming at the young girls, screaming at the opposing coach, screaming at parents, and screaming at me. I watched him impassively, unmoved by his antics.
When he failed to get a reaction out of me, he got louder and closer. I could hear the murmur of disapproval from the parents behind me – on both sides of the benches. The game ground to a halt as he approached. I stared up at him as he drew near, his red face and burly body towering over me like a monster, his mouth wide open, roaring. I found my brave, and did what I knew a good umpire would do.
“Mr. Renaldo, you’re outta here!” I shouted in a clear, no-nonsense voice, punctuating my order with a strong point in the direction of his bench. I tossed him from the game. I knew how to do it because I had seen it on TV, watching professional games with my father, eyes wide open when an angry coach was unceremoniously dismissed by a disgruntled ump.
Mr. Renaldo was so astonished that he stood there, mute.
I turned my back on him, returned to home plate, and cried, “Play Ball!”
Incensed, Mr. Relaldo marched off to the far parts of the baseball diamond and did somersaults. I ignored him.
We finished the game. I hopped on my bike, and road home.
I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but it is important to “find our brave” because we will need it. The world isn’t an easy place and the universe will find ways to test our mettle. As the saying goes, the toughest steel is forged in the hottest fire.
That unwelcome fire will arrive in various forms – bullies in the school hallway. Battling and conquering cancer, as my friend Vicki Flaherty shared last week in her blog (click here to read it). Confronting your boyfriend of 5 years after you discover that he has been cheating on you the whole time (that would be my story, unfortunately).
In circumstances like these, when people show us their brave, when you see someone standing up for the right thing, challenging a bully, or facing their fears, it’s inspirational. In fact, courage is contagious. Don’t you find that to be true?
One of my favorite movie examples of contagious courage comes from the awesome film, Casablanca. Click here to watch a short clip that demonstrates the power of brave. One man makes a decision to do something, and leads a metaphorical battle between occupied France and free France in WWII.
I know that you, my wonderful and charming readers, have had your share of challenging situations. What is your favorite story about bravery – personal or otherwise? Let’s inspire one another – show me how big your brave is!
P.S. Not familiar with the song, Brave? Click here to see the live version – just Sara and her piano alone on stage – that’s pretty darn brave in itself, don’t you think?