These days, courage is one of the things that most impresses me – maybe because it’s the thing I feel I most need in life right now. I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s books, and she has a lot to say about courage and courageous moments – those moments we decide to risk ourselves and be vulnerable. All too often I find myself stuck on something on my task list. I can come up with lots of reasons why I haven’t done it yet… but the real reason is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing, or of putting myself out there and making a mistake.
But the fact remains: If we risk nothing, precisely nothing is usually what will happen.
I’m reminded of a conversation in the movie We Bought a Zoo, when Matt Damon’s character is talking with someone about the seemingly-crazy act of buying a run-down zoo… it’s an idea that echoes much farther in the story than just this one action. “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage,” he says. “Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
There were many different kinds of people inside the fences of that refugee center those nights we were there – refugees, immigrants looking for a better life, police-men and -women, soldiers, volunteers. Some did not really choose to be there, some did. But almost all of them were exhibiting courage.
A man who spends his weeks away from his wife so that he can attend seminary classes and volunteer at the refugee center. I spent an hour in the car with him, listening to the story of how he put himself in a rehab program several years ago because he realized drugs were destroying his life… and now wants to devote his life to helping other addicts like himself.
A husband and wife and their two children, moving along in a single-file line that seems to stretch from their home in the Middle East, all the way to the distant north of Europe. I didn’t get to speak with them, but their faces as they walked past spoke of tiredness and loss. It takes courage to leave what we know, no matter the circumstances.
A soldier who was stationed here for a few weeks, working with the army to clear the land and prepare the area for the construction of the center. Now he comes back to help – not on assignment, but as a volunteer, because he believes in the good work that is being done.
An American who has moved to Croatia for three months, leaving his wife and children in the U.S., because he’s an expert in disaster response and he knows his expertise is needed here.
A trio of young men – seminary students – who are probably running on less sleep each week than I typically get in a night. They are giving themselves completely to this work for a season because their faith compels them to help “the foreigner and sojourner in your land.”
A couple of young women, both university students, who volunteer at the camp at night and are working to change the minds of their own people who live in fear of the refugees flowing through their countries.
A young man of Syrian descent who works many hours each week at the camp as a volunteer. Even though he emigrated to Croatia long ago, he’s giving himself here on behalf of his own people because he can translate… and because he understands where they’re coming from.
A group of people who quietly share their stories while we all waited on trains in the middle of the night. Affected perhaps by the vulnerable situation of these thousands of refugees, these men and women made themselves vulnerable – sharing their feelings and painful memories from their past. This kind of sharing takes courage… and from the sharing they found their own healing, as well as a chance to speak healing into someone else’s life.
In a time when I’m thinking a lot about courage, I recognized that all these people were displaying courage in their own way, and I loved them for it. Our world needs more courage… and each of us has much more of it than we realize.
The question is, then, will we allow our lives to be ruled by fear – fear of the unknown? Fear of opening ourselves or our home to someone else? Fear of sharing that secret that has held us captive for so long? Fear of leaving behind what is familiar and doing something new, because we might fail?
I encourage you this week to take a look at your life and ask, “What would happen if I were to take one small courageous step forward?” Then do it – take the step. Surprise yourself and see where it leads. You might succeed or you might fail – but either way you’ll grow into a different person.