Courage is a fascinating thing. There are all types of courage. I am quite odd. Put me in front of a football team or any physical challenge and I lack courage. But put me in front of a large crowd and invite me to challenge them and I am quite at home – while always a little nervous. So physical courage is not my thing – but I do chip away at growing my moral courage. But then, even after saying that – I struggle with relationship courage. I avoid conflict big time and am only now at this stage of my life find myself getting slightly better at it.
These Covid times have given us tens of thousands of examples of courage. I will never forget those week living in Italy back in February and March when the TV news was filled night after night with scenes of ambulances, graves and tired medical professionals and too often – grieving families trapped outside, unable to be with their loved ones in their time of need. But what courage the medical professionals displayed over and over again. For weeks on end, exhausted to the bone, they would commit time and presence to their noble profession and in spite of the fear of catching the virus were there for the most vulnerable. Often one of the greatest fears is that of the unknown. So often, especially in the early days of Covid we did not know just how virulent this virus was – all we knew was that so many of our elderly were so susceptible to its reach. Despite all of this thousands of doctors and nurses and medical support staff, ambulance drivers and staff, priests, ministers and pastoral workers put their bodies on the line for their brothers and their sisters in the human family.
I have been in awe of the commitment of so many of my friends in the teaching profession too. During this Covid time that have gone way and above the call of duty. They were teaching classes – when so many other ‘professionals’ were self-isolating at home and then society asked these same teachers to work huge un-paid hours by reaching out to students virtually.
That type of courage and commitment does not get medals. That type of courage and commitment is ‘under the radar’. That type of courage and commitment is sadly – too often – taken for granted. That type of courage and commitment just gets in and gets it done. That type of courage in the midst of crisis does not clock on nor off, has a union nor puts conditions around service. This type of courage is totally other focussed. As you know I belong to a Religious Order. Early on in Covid one of our Brothers was desperately ill in a hospital in New South Wales. Hour after hour, day after day while he was in a coma the staff treated him and took turns at turning him over on to his side, then front, then side, then back to keep fluids moving and his lungs from filling. It was extraordinary generosity, great risk, great dedication and love and yes – great courage. Because of extraordinary dedication our Brother is on the mend and taking small daily steps to full recovery.
And what about the courage of all those in services industries – often especially those who are not that highly paid who have worked so hard – in the midst of Covid to keep services up to those of us who ‘expect it’! What about the courage of parents who have been struggling to put bread on the table and yet have gone beyond the call of duty over and over again. What about those who have lived for weeks on end in the midst of the grey of restrictions and yet financial pressure, family pressure, huge demands, risk and yet, and despite it all can still smile and in so many cases – reach out in care to others.
Real courage is so often displayed by the unimportant, no name ones among us. There are no TV cameras around when the tired parent gets out of bed in the wee hours to care for a crying sick child. There are no accolades for the parent of the disabled child who does all they can, never counting the cost, to ensure quality of life for those they love. The carer in the dementia wade, the one charged with changing sheets and emptying bed pans and the one who comforts in the midst of fear are rarely noticed and even more rarely celebrated. No Hollywood movie script is written about the school bus driver, the canteen helper nor the grounds keeper who make a school more of a home. Yet all of these choose selflessness time and time again. They give and give and so rarely do they count the cost.
Covid does not discriminate by colour, culture or creed. The barrios of San Paulo, the slums of Nairobi or the shanty towns of Johannesburg know Covid just as have the boroughs of New York. In each of these and a million other places around the world courage, commitment, fidelity, unconditional love – have shone like beckons in what has been months of darkness.
Amnesty International has a saying, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness!” So let’s light a candle:
- for the doctors who virtually slept at their hospitals
- for the loved ones who could not hold their dying parent’s hands
- for the nurses who risked their lives for the frail, the vulnerable and the elderly
- for the ambulance crews who responded with haste, with dignity and respect
- for the pastoral care workers who sat with those in pain
- for the young children confused by the fear in their parents’ eyes
- for those politicians who did not blame but only sought to serve
- for the poets and writers, the singers and the musicians who have helped us find hope
- for the story tellers who have woven a narrative of hope in the midst of the doom
- for the ordinary people – who in the face of the extraordinary put others first, comforted and consoled, encouraged and gave hope despite their own feelings of fear or dread
Another form of Courage
Perhaps this time on planet Earth a new type of courage is being called forth! Have we the courage to ask ‘why’? One of my greatest fears is that when Covid comes to an end – and it will – it will be ‘business as usual’! Sadly in that ‘business as usual’ it will take the poor years and years to crawl back to some sort of living wage. In that ‘business as usual’ the businesses that survive from day to day, from one good week to one bad week – where the gap between making ends meet and going under is never that great – may well be the expendable on the agenda of the ‘haves’ – for they are the ‘have nots’! So:
- Why must it be business as usual?
- Can we pause and reflect and learn?
- Why can’t we do things differently?
- Why can’t all have a more equal share of the resources of our beautiful planet?
- Why must species die to satisfy the greed of a few?
- Why must children cry and live in fear because of the ideological ego trips of wealthy and powerful men?
- Why have we built a world order that is so at the whim of market cycles, stock markets, banks and big business?
- Why must we play ‘God’ with nature and abuse and use our very mother Earth until its very lack of health spreads and touches all – especially the poor?
- Why should the very asking of these questions be labelled the rambling of a dreamer rather than the birthright of all who call our planet home?
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Like the ‘Me Too’ movement, Black Lives Matter, refugees and asylum seekers, climate change …like all of these and a thousand other movements of the heart – can we find the courage to keep on asking the questions, keep on marching, keep on dreaming, keep on being that fragile, flickering light in the darkness! Can we too find a little Covid Courage!