We all admire courage. Bravery is considered one of the finest qualities an individual can possess. That is why we honor those who demonstrate courage with medals and awards. We put them on a pedestal and look up to them. We emulate them and wonder if we could have the level of fearlessness that they display. Our society makes heroes out of those who exhibit this important quality. We are drawn to it, and we seek it out from the everyday experience. Being courageous is an honorable thing.

Of course there are many kinds of courage. It is expected from some people because of their line of work. Police officers, fire fighters, those in the military and medical personnel are often called upon to take heroic actions. It is what they do, and our society would be far less safe without their selfless contributions. We have also come to admire courage in athletes. We watch with awe as an individual fights through a painful injury and keeps playing. We admire those who are willing to take risks we would never even consider. Whether it is driving a car 200 mph or hurtling down a snow packed mountain we are captivated by those who risk their bodies and their lives in an effort to do the impossible.

In everyday life there is also courage. It may not be as dramatic or as newsworthy but it too requires an individual to leave their comfort zone and do something difficult, usually while making some kind of sacrifice. The single parent who works two jobs to provide for their family is showing courage and sacrifice. They are giving up their time and energy in order to improve the lives of their children. The mother who refuses to terminate her pregnancy and bravely gives birth to her baby even though she knows it will be physically or mentally challenged is demonstrating unbelievable courage because she is making a commitment that will last a lifetime. The individual, who stands up for what he believes in, even though he is alone in his convictions, is certainly showing courage. It is incredibly difficult to go against the majority of society but there are times when it is worth the battle.

Through the decades there have been many brave citizens who have stood up for causes that were truly life changing such as civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and the rights of the unborn. Individual acts of courage can often be the catalyst to an entire movement that sweeps across nations bringing positive change that improves the lives of millions. These people have demonstrated one of the most important and rarest forms of courage and that is the courage to care…Caring requires effort and sacrifice. It forces us to take action. It does not allow us to be lazy, selfish or apathetic. It demands that we put aside our petty problems and that we acknowledge the suffering of others. We often have to step away from the crowd and be willing to be in the minority. It requires us to be better people.

However, the level of courage we typically witness in our lives pales in comparison to the courage demonstrated by those struggling in extreme poverty. We have no idea what it is like to be brave in the face of such constant misery and death. They face situations we cannot even imagine. They endure levels of pain that we cannot comprehend, and they do these things every day of their lives without respite and too often without hope.


***Your 7-year-old daughter steps on a landmine and the blast mangles both of her legs. You hold her as she bleeds to death because there is no medical help within fifty miles…

***You resist with all your strength when the militia comes to take away your nine-year old son so they can train him to kill other children. You are beaten and left for dead…

***You are an 8-year-old orphan who lives alone in the streets. Both of your parents died from HIV/AIDS. You cannot read or write. You are sick, hungry and abused almost every day…

***Your heart breaks as you dig a grave for your precious little girl who lost her battle with malaria…

***You are pregnant and during your delivery something goes horribly wrong. You are utterly alone and helpless. Your baby dies in your arms…

The human beings who are trapped in the despair and deprivation of extreme poverty show unbelievable courage as they face each new day. We have no conception of the pain and suffering they are forced to deal with. Each day, filled with heartache, they bury the 25,000 innocent children who could not overcome the lack of compassion shown to them by the rest of the world. Each day thousands die from treatable illnesses and preventable diseases while the medicine that could have saved their lives sits unused on our pharmacy shelves. Each day millions suffer from hunger and malnutrition while we update our wardrobes to bigger sizes because of our propensity to overeat.

Courage comes in many forms. It can be spectacular or quiet. It can be viewed by the entire world or it can occur completely out of sight. It can be displayed by one person or an entire nation. But please, the next time you watch a million dollar athlete have “the courage” to play with a sprained ankle don’t confuse that with the courage demonstrated by the one billion men, women and children who bravely try to survive on one dollar a day. Don’t confuse it with the woman who walks five miles and uses half her day to get clean water for her family. Don’t confuse it with the man who struggles continually to feed his 3 children in a desolate draught stricken area plagued by war. Don’t confuse it with the determination, endurance and faith shown by those who continue to love and hope in the face of insurmountable odds.

30,000 human beings will die today from extreme poverty, among them there will be many heroes who through sheer bravery did everything humanly possible to make life better for themselves and especially for their families. They will not receive millions of dollars. They will not receive medals. There will be no adoring masses. There will be no recognition of any kind. Some will be buried in unmarked graves. Most will soon be forgotten. They will go from loving mother, father or child to becoming a cold hard statistic. Their courage will never be acknowledged.

The next time you witness a simple act of courage stop and think about those who have to be brave every day of their lives. They have no choice. Their very survival demands that they be heroes to their families and loved ones. They endure every kind of physical suffering without medication. The pain they feel is real. It is not watered down. They have to live with chronic hunger, illness and disease. They have a shortened life expectancy. They have to function in the face of utter hopelessness and deal with the mental anguish of not being able to provide for their family. They live on next to nothing with little prospect of a brighter future and yet they carry on. Day after day they bravely face the unending challenges that no human being should have to endure.

Would you or I be so brave facing the life threatening horrors of deprivation and despair?





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