Bravery and courage are not just for heroes, they are character qualities available to everyone. In fact, a courageous acts can turn a moment into a memory, a stranger into a friend, and may turn your life in a whole new direction. Our lives are defined by courageous acts and occasions where we stepped out beyond ourselves to do something meaningful.
Our popular stories of courage often come from the movies. We think of Braveheart or a super hero film and cheer on those who charged against the enemy or some other injustice. Yet most of the courage we hope to muster up does not come from a super power or a war-cry. A growing sense of courage may take us to a place where we do something bold, but it does not begin there. Courage begins in humility and is nurtured in a life that is often vulnerable and open to others. A screaming angry or bitter person is not courageous, they’re just angry and bitter. A quiet and caring person may not seem like the model of courage, but it is out of depth of character that real courage emerges.
On October 22, 2014 a gunman went on a rampage in Ottawa. On that day, Kevin Vickers and others did not know that they would emerge as heroes. Serving as the Sergeant-at-Arms, Vickers’ role was largely ceremonial. But as the gunman entered the Parliament building, Vickers took action and stopped the gunman. Vickers was applauded for this bravery and courage. The source of his courage, however, came through in his reflections after the event. He said, “We can hate, we can reject or we can use the tool in the toolbox called forgiveness.” His bravery did not come out of an inflated ego or supercharged anger. Rather it came from a place of strength found in an overarching appeal to forgiveness. Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Bravery and courage emerge from grace and love, anything else fails to stand in the face of real and sudden danger.
Neighbourhoods need courage and a growing vision to create a better life for everyone. We often do not need more money, or more intelligence, or better skills. Everything we have is often already in our community. It takes bravery to help good things to emerge and come together. When we step courageously into our communities we unearth abilities, passions, and people who deeply care for others. We discover allies and new partnerships that make the journey possible. The good life is found on the other side of many small courageous steps.
To be a courageous neighbour, we need a deep sense of care for others. We take time to look out for others and pay attention to what is unfolding in our community. Bravery may mean that you host a barbecue or go for a walk with a person that may be very different from you. It may mean that you accept help or open your home to someone else. Who knows what remarkable story might unfold when courageous neighbours come together to care and connect with each other. After all, it will be the brave among us who will find out.