Simple Acts of Courage

Erica - Walcott, Iowa
Entered on June 12, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: courage

I believe in the courage of everyday people. As a kid, I associated courage with war heroes and firefighters. I thought that being courageous meant that you jumped into risky situations and did something noble. It just wasn’t an adjective that I used to describe ordinary, everyday people in daily situations.

When I was sixteen, I decided to volunteer at a year-round camp for people with special needs. My experiences with people who had disabilities were very limited at that point and, if I am truly honest, I went into it selfishly thinking that it would look good on a college scholarship application. I was soon hooked on camp though. After spending a lot of weekends there, I went on to work at camp for a summer during college and then for two years after I got my bachelor’s. Deciding to show up alone to volunteer there one day turned out to be one of the most pivotal decisions of my life. I never did get a college scholarship out of it, but the life lessons and the friendships that I received were priceless.

At camp staff orientations, we are reminded that you can’t ask a camper to try something that you wouldn’t be willing to try yourself. I’ve climbed 40 feet into the air and army crawled 500 feet into the back of a cave more than once because of this philosophy. I’ve also seen kids who were blind and kids with severe autism rise to the occasion and do it better than I could.

Success isn’t always ringing the bell at the top of the tree climb; sometimes it’s getting two steps further off the ground than you believed you could.

Seeing people overcome their fears is so inspirational that it motivates you to overcome your own. I earned my commercial driver’s license so that I could drive the camp bus and I went from not being able to swim 25 yards with my face in the water to being a lifeguard certified to teach swimming lessons. However, my hardest act of courage came when I left my security net at camp behind and moved out into the “real world.”

Being courageous means making a determined effort to rise above your fears. I believe that every day, people’s simple acts of courage take them from being ordinary to extraordinary. While the acts of enormous courage by war heroes and firefighters are the ones that will be immortalized by the media, it is the unrecognized, daily acts of courage that help us grow as people. Seemingly simple things like teenagers working up the guts to ask that special someone to the prom or overcoming a lifelong fear of public speaking. Then there are more fun, but still not very newsworthy things, like moving to a distant country or training for a marathon.

I make an effort to try things that scare me now. They are much more fulfilling than the things that come easily.