Courage: The First Rung on the Ladder

Last night, I was reading before bed and they had a series of quotes from Maya Angelou, some of which I had never read before. This one struck me particularly and I shared it on my personal Facebook page before I headed off to bed with the added comment of “Have courage and be kind”.


It set me to thinking. I would usually be one to say that love is the greatest virtue BUT, the more I thought about it, the more I agree along similar lines of Ms. Angelou’s quote. Without stepping out in courage, how can we show love? Without courage, how can we choose to be kind to strangers? Without courage, how can we champion justice? Without courage, how can we face hardships and challenges in order to be the best version of ourselves that we can be?

Courage is not merely running into the face of danger. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is having an absolutely awful day but being willing to listen to someone else’s awful day and determining to try your best again tomorrow. Courage is saying “hello” to someone who is grieving, even if you might not know what else to say to them. Courage is letting someone know you are thinking about them, even if you know you might not hear back from them. Courage is facing that classroom full of students, each with large and individual needs, and doing your absolute best for the benefit of their education. Courage is showing love in the midst of anger, grace in the midst of hurt, kindness in the midst of strife, integrity in a world of rationalization and dishonesty, and compassion when surrounded by indifference.

Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All admirable, all life-giving. But I think that almost any and every virtue we can practice or demonstrate starts with this: the courage to step out and say, “I will.”

I will try again tomorrow.

I will take a breath before I respond.

I will listen instead of talk.

I will say hello even though it is hard.

I will give.

I will help.

I will be there.

I will admit I was wrong.

I will do my best to make it right.

I will show love, have courage, and be kind.


Butterscotch’d Courage

I posted this on Facebook this morning but then…I thought it worth a share here. It’s been a good morning so far. A capstone to what has ended up being a good week.

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This is long but entirely worth it. The color of my courage today is gold, like bubbling butterscotch baths, and smelling of cinnamon, cider, and crackling fireplace. And so I share with you once of my favorite passages of literature.

Lye lifted September up suddenly and put her down in the first tub, which was really more like an oak barrel, the kind you store wine in, if you need to store rather a lot of wine, for it was enormous. September’s head ducked immediately under the thick, bright gold water. When she bobbed up, the smell of it wrapped her up like a warm scarf: the scent of fireplaces crackling and warm cinnamon and autumn leaves crunching underfoot. She smelled cider and a rainstorm coming. The gold water clung to her in streaks and clumps, and she laughed. It tasted like butterscotch.

“This is the tub for washing your courage,” Lye said, her voice as even and calm as ever, performing her task, grief packed away for the duration of a bath.

“I didn’t know one’s courage needed washing!” gasped September as Lye poured a pitch of water over her head. Or that one needs to be naked for that sort of washing, she thought to herself.

Lye poured a bucketful of golden water over September’s head. “When you are born,” the golem said softly, “your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, you courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living. So every once in a while, you have to scrub it up and get the words going or else you’ll never be brave again. Unfortunately, there are not so many facilities in your word that provide the kind of services we do. So most people go around with grimy machinery, when all it would take is a bit of spit and polish to make them paladins once more, bold knights and true.”

Lye broke off one of her deep blue fingers and dropped it into the tub. Immediately, a creamy froth bubbled up, clinging to September’s skin and tickling.

“Your finger!” she cried.

“Don’t fear, little one. It doesn’t hurt. My mistress said, ‘Give of yourself, and it will return to you as new as new can be.’ And so my fingers do, when the bathers have gone.”

September looked inside herself to see if her courage was shining up. She didn’t feel any different, besides the pleasure of a hot bath and clean skin. A little lighter, maybe, but she could not be sure.

~ The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherine M. Valente, pages 59-61