“It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill’s words, which we feature on the home page this month, resonate in this third year of the pandemic.
We often associate courage with the spirit of adventure: daring deeds, doggedly pursued. Homeric seas braved, majestic mountains climbed, icy lands breached. We are agog with admiration for the intrepid explorers of land and space, who conquer fear and danger in pursuit of a great dream. The “spirit of adventure,” Sir Edmund Hillary noted, was a chief motivator for him and for his Sherpa friend Tenzing Norgay, when they summited Mount Everest in 1953. It’s that hard to define combination of wonder, drive, desire to experience first-hand, and hopefully be FIRST. It helped the mountaineers move beyond fear “to venture and persevere.”
Sometimes the will to act courageously springs from the pursuit of an ideal too precious to be surrendered. Freedom and love of country inspired George Washington and American troops at Valley Forge, Winston Churchill and the British people during World War II, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the Gulag. Religious conviction motivated Quaker safe houses on the Underground Railroad and workers’ rights advocate Dorothy Day and Nazi critic Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Human dignity and racial equality motivated Martin Luther King Jr. from a Birmingham jail, and Nelson Mandela imprisoned for decades in South Africa.
Whether spurred by the spirit of adventure or the pursuit of an ideal, we are often able to exercise courage when something meaningful rallies us to move beyond fear. But what about when courage is required simply “to continue,” as Churchill had it?
The pandemic affords us a new opportunity to exercise courage: courage to go into the classroom, courage to go the grocery store, courage to go to a doctor’s appointment, courage to get on a bus or an airplane…. We look at this January 2022 Courage List and are tempted to laugh out loud. Or shake our heads. This is a Baby Courage List. But so be it.
Let’s take our baby steps and do (as Eleanor Roosevelt suggested) one thing that scares us every day. Let the spirit of adventure take us to a restaurant. Let the pursuit of an ideal lead us back to church or synagogue or the classroom or the theater or the museum. Let the will to live well triumph over the temptation to cower. And let the words of Henry Ford inspire us as we continue an uphill slog: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Mary Beth Klee