I have only been scared a handful of times in my life. Of those, I was only terrified once.
I’ve stood up for my family or friends, but I’ve never moved a mountain, led a cause. I’m not sure one has presented itself to me. I’m certain I have never sought one out. I’ve never found myself in a situation that asked me to look fear in the face and move anyway. I’d like to think I would be brave, but I’m not sure.
Mark Twain said, “Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” I like this because it means brave people, pioneers, leaders of change are human. They are scared and yet they find a way past it for something they are forced to confront or change they need to see.
I think it is important to look at great leaders in tangible terms, otherwise our society will never grow any more. We will be forever lost in the awe of past shoes too big to fill. If we know that Martin Luther King Jr. was scared, worried about his family, or even struggled with decisions about where his movement, his momentum, was going, then we see him as a man. Other men, that follow King, know it is all right to doubt. It is acceptable for their voice to tremor.
If we know Sojourner Truth was born into slavery and went on to not only fight for civil rights, but women’s rights, then women born into horrible circumstances see there’s a way for them to make change. They fight harder, hold on longer, because Truth was also just one woman. If children know that Claudette Colvin, the first person to refuse to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger, was only 15 at the time, children will know they have choices, they have power.
Kennedy showed that a rich white guy could still see the injustice in a people he could in no way relate too. FDR changed a nation from a wheelchair. The list goes on and on, human beings, known and unknown, that were probably scared to death, but they faced the storm. The challenges, the fears, are endless and overwhelming to me, but somehow real people, from every background, of every race, color and gender stand up and act for things to be set right.
We tend to glorify the past, celebrate our nations heroes and heroines, we often make them larger than life. Our upcoming champions need to know that beneath the shine, our grandest change makers most likely had sweaty palms, sleepless nights, mistakes, insecurities and fear, but they did it anyway. They had courage against adversity and for that our nation thanks them.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Have a Dream.