Courage

A few years ago I found myself at the Eagle pub in Cambridge, England.

I was visiting a friend who was a regular there and, as I sat down next to the centuries-old bar, I asked who may have been in that spot before me.

 “Probably RAF,” he said.

“Huh?”

“Royal Air Force. Look above.”

To my surprise, the ceiling was covered in graffiti.  

Evidently, it was local custom for World War II pilots to record their name and squadron at the Eagle before flying off to unknown fates.

How bittersweet.

For a moment I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it must have been like for these men. I pictured them anxious but steadfast, and I admired their courage.

Don’t get me wrong.

There’s nothing romantic about violence and rubble, but there IS something extraordinarily brave about looking injustice in the face and saying, “Not on my watch.”  

To be honest, this post was supposed to be a call for that kind of courage.

It was supposed to be an appeal for our leaders to make decisions based on shared values over self-preservation and people over profits.

Then…. Boston

And literally as I’m typing the words “Where has all the courage gone?” I see that it’s right in front of me.

It’s in the stories of men and women at the scene of the marathon who used their belts as tourniquets, who used their bare hands to help people on fire, and who kept running well past the finish line to donate blood.

That’s courage.

Is it the same courage required to take on an army?

Who knows. Thankfully, most of us will never face decisions so wrenching.

But one thing is certain.

It takes commitment to stand up for what’s right – even when it’s hard and the outcome is unclear.

And so what started this week as a hat tip to the past suddenly morphed into a renewed appreciation for the present, not to mention a much-needed reminder that true courage hasn’t gone anywhere.

At least… not on our watch.

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