2. A daily reflection: Thoughts on Courage for Mission Week
Courage. The word evokes images of solitary figures, figuratively and literally standing against the powers of the world that are too often aligned with injustice and wrong. The lone figure facing down the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Rosa Parks, sitting by herself in the front of the bus, launching a major push forward in the Civil Rights Movement. A single soldier’s voice calling out the abuses of Abu Ghraib.
The thought of the lone individual, courageously acting in the face of overwhelming powers arrayed in opposition, stirs our emotions, makes our blood race, and inspires our imaginations. In fact, the thought prompts an occasional blockbuster in Hollywood.
Wait a minute. Hollywood movies? Right there, we should be suspicious.
Is individual action the hallmark of courage? Or is healthy solidarity with a strong community the fertile ground in which courageous individuals thrive? History tells us the latter.
Rosa Parks was far from the tired, solitary housemaid returning from her day of work who just didn’t have the energy to move to the back of the bus. She was an active member of the local NAACP and her act of courage was strategic. While carried out alone, her resistance reflected the vision, energy, and commitment of an entire community of others with whom Parks stood in solidarity, a community that stood in solidarity with Parks. The brave resister in Tiananmen Square was one of many Chinese citizens passionately protesting for a new level of freedom and justice. He was photographed standing alone. In reality, countless others stood in solidarity with him.
The stories behind the solitary courageous figures who capture our imagination almost always reveal a community of people acting in solidarity with each other for common goals. The values that inspire courageous actions flourish because of the nurturance of families, schools, and faith communities. The vision that gives content to courageous actions is forged in the impassioned conversations and arguments of many individuals, collectively struggling to see the shape of justice in the midst of injustice. And the strength that puts feet and voice to courage is drawn from a deep sense of solidarity with a community, indeed, a sense of solidarity with the whole of humanity.
An accurate Hollywood blockbuster portraying acts of courage would have a cast of thousands. Though one figure may stand alone, at times, that figure is in reality surrounded by a community and is a committed member of the human community. Therein lie the source and hallmark of courage. Father Pedro Arrupe issued a call for us to be men and women for others. I suspect he would have approved of a slight change. Let us be men and women with others, as well.
— Dr. Sharon Chubbuck
Assistant Professor of Education
Reflections are sponsored by the Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality.