Mark Twain once said that courage is not the absence of fear. It is the mastery of and resistance to fear.
I started thinking about courage a week ago when I read about a young man in our local county school system. Approaching the end of his senior year in high school, he went to the school board to ask them specifically to name sexual orientation in the anti-bullying policies. This would mean that the well-known playground taunts of “fag, gay, homo, dike, fairy” etc. would be identified as on par with racial slurs and attacks.
When I saw his picture in the paper, standing alone at a podium in the board room, I was overcome with respect and frankly, amazement. He is almost out of the K-12 system. If he and everyone else in his class can hang in there, they will be out of public school all together and on to what, hopefully, will be the commencement of a full and exciting adult life. All of the pathologies of adolescence will be behind them, and they will be free to go on to grow into who they were born to be, not who the crowd tries to force them to be.
And yet here he was, putting himself out there at the eleventh hour for all of those children behind him. Whatever the school system decides to do, he will not benefit directly. If anything, the last days of high school may be a special hell for him, now that he has taken the ultimate public route to talking about his experiences, naming who has tormented him, and how it hurt. Last time I checked, people who to treat others this way don’t exactly turn down the volume when you acknowledge your vulnerabilities.
How many of us would have the courage to do what he did at his age? At any age? Maybe now I could consider it, but at 18 I am pretty sure I would have laid low and tried to just get out. This fellow is a special person, and a young man of true courage.