Greetings from the beautiful Zambia.
Around the world local winds have special names – whether the Mistral of France, the Elephanta of the Malabar Coast, the Freemantle Doctor of Western Australia or the Barat of Manando Bay. Here we have the less salubrious Lusaka Wind which usually comes in August. However, its calendar is just a little out this year, and it’s already arrived. So our laundry is covered with red African dust (which we wear with pride!), our eyes are sore, our hair is full of it. And up here on my hill, it blasts into the side of my writing room and my office carrying with it (as well as the dust!) the sound of rustling bamboo and the straining cassia trees. And I love it!
This morning I’ve been thinking about courage and how we never know we are courageous until we’re challenged to perform some act of bravery, and how the worry about the possible outcome often gets in our way. Sadly I witnessed a nasty racial incident which I simply couldn’t ignore. I’m glad that I couldn’t, for had I waited a while, concern about who might like me, who might not, who might reject me, who might abandon etc etc might have got in the way, though I hope that my integrity would still have guided me to do what needed to be done.
I once read a true story about a man who, while walking home one night, heard the undeniable sounds of a woman being attacked coming from bushes quite close to the road he was walking. In recalling the episode, he admitted that for an instant he weighed up in his mind his own personal safety, the fact that he was neither so young or so fit any more and that he should probably call the police and do nothing more. Within milliseconds however he found himself running towards the bushes and, in outrage, dragging the assailant off a woman who was by now crying. A peaceful man who had never fought before, but finding strength he didn’t know he possessed, he managed not only to wrestle the much younger man to the ground but also finally to chase him off. Only then did he turn his attention to the woman who was obviously terrified and gently spoke to her, assuring her that he was not going to hurt her. He was then astounded to hear the voice he knew so well cry, ‘Dad, is that you?’
I know that the media often report the injury or even death of such heroes. We’re often admonished for trying to help in such circumstances and putting ourselves at risk. I’m not saying here what is right or wrong, and I’m not advocating rashly disregarding our own safety. However, sometimes I think we take so much time trying to second guess the outcome and weigh up all the consequences of any action that in the end we dilute our integrity and fail to say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, have courage to be the magnificent beings we are. Sometimes we mask our lack of courage by citing the possible consequences when we know we need to act. Not all of us are brave and that’s fine; many of us are spared the challenge or opportunity to prove our bravery by doing something courageous. But if we’re chosen to have such an opportunity, then perhaps we could see that there is something beyond us that will add its power to our own and make possible the impossible; give us superhuman strength or stamina we thought was beyond us. Perhaps we need to do what our integrity demands and let the Divine have the details of the outcome.
Courage, it is said, is grace under pressure. But I like what John F. Kennedy had to say on the matter: ‘The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles, dangers and pressure- and that is the basis of all morality.’
I wish you a happy and courageous day.