“There are all kinds of courage,” said Dumbledore, smiling. “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Mr. Neville Longbottom.”
–Harry Potter and the Sorer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
It comes in all shapes and sizes. Certainly we can find it in literature and pop culture. Who didn’t think of The Cowardly Lion or Courage the Cowardly Dog or Dumbledore’s speech on Courage when they read the prompt? But it is found just as easily on the pages of history books and newspapers. And, of course it is found in every day moments that will never make a newscast and will hardly be remembered beyond the small circle of people who experienced it.
THE BIG STORIES:
I talked to some people before writing this blog entry and asked them what Courage meant to them…what moments of courage could they point to. I got Big Story moments:
- Martin Luther King crossing a bridge
- Gandhi walking to the sea to make salt
- Soldiers battling for freedom on D-Day
- Nelson Mandela fighting apartheid
- Edward R. Murrow taking down Joe McCarthy
- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the alien surface of the Moon.
- St. Joan, The Maid of Orléans, paying the ultimate price for leading the French army in the Hundred Years War.
The Little Stories that made Big News:
Then there were acts of courage by every day people who made a big impact:
- Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights movement in the US
- The unknown man standing in front of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square
- Irena Sendler, the Polish social worker who helped save 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto by smuggling them out.
- Passengers on Flight 93 storming the terrorist in the cockpit so the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and not into the Capital Building in DC.
- Malala Yousafzai, the teenaged girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke out in favor of educating girls in Pakistan.
- Edie Windsor, the plaintiff in the recent Supreme Court ruling on DOMA who sued the government when the IRS denied her refund for the federal estate taxes she paid after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009.
Standing up in front of the Class Room:
Several people noted the special courage teachers have shown in protecting the children in their charge. Reader Mary L. wrote in to remind us of the following acts of courage in the classroom:
- Sandy Hook Elementary School. Principle Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and teachers Victoria Soto and Anne Marie Murphy died confronting the gunman or shielding children that horrible day. Teachers Maryrose Kristopik and Kaitlin Roig courageously hurried their wards into a closet or bathroom and barred the door so the gunman couldn’t get in.
- Teachers in Moore, Oklahoma herded students into interior hall ways, closets and bathrooms and used their own bodies as shields as a recent tornado ripped Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary schools apart. …
“At Briarwood Elementary, the students also went into the halls. But a third-grade teacher didn’t think it looked safe, so she herded some of the children into a closet, said David Wheeler, one of the fathers who tried to rush to the school after the tornado hit….The teacher shielded Wheeler’s 8-year-old son, Gabriel, with her arms and held him down as the tornado collapsed the school roof and starting lifting students upward with a pull so strong that it literally sucked glasses off kids’ faces, Wheeler said.” [Pennlive.com]
- This year, on the first day of school, Robert Gladden brought a disassembled shotgun into Perry Hall High School near Baltimore and shot Daniel Borowy, a 17 year old student with Downs Syndrome. Jesse Wasmer, a guidance councelor, and other faculty members risked getting shot themselves when they quickly restrained Gladden and sheilded Borowy and other students.
Everyday Acts of Courage:
An act of courage = value. It doesn’t necesarrily = newsworthy. In fact the lack of a camera or reporter has no baring on whether an act is couragous or not. The “news” part is just by-product, happenstance, a memory device.
- Standing up for whats right even when it isn’t popular.
- Standing up for whats right even though some one you really love and respect doesn’t agree with you about it.
- Standing up for whats right when YOU are the only one standing.