Jewish World Review March 7, 2003 / 3 Adar II, 5763

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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The call for courage | There have not been many sweeping calls for courage directed to my generation. Boomers and Gen-Xers have not often been put to the test. Sure, the World War II generation responded to a blanket call for courage. But we're not like them. We've never done rationing. Heaven and Madison Avenue know, self-deprivation hasn't been our thing.

Yes, we saw brilliant flashes of courage in the midst of the terrorist attack of 9/11. But a sustained call for courage on behalf of every man, woman and child across this land? Not much; not until now. Not until the orange alert, spreading national jitters and the run on duct tape and plastic sheeting.

"It is easy to be brave from a safe distance," Aesop said. The distance is gone now. The oceans that once sheltered us have shrunken and the technology designed to empower us has been used against us. The safe distance has disappeared. So now we must be brave not from a distance, but up close, near the flame and the fire.

The need for courage isn't new, it's just new to many of us. Generations before have summoned courage. During the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers summoned the courage to pledge their entire lives and fortunes. Many of them, proclaimed traitors by Great Britain, knew that if captured their fate would be swinging from a noose. Surely they thought of that as they put their pens to paper. Perhaps they signed with shaking boots and trembling hands, but they signed with courage.

Channel surfing last week, I paused on a news report from Kuwait. Soldiers were demonstrating the technology and techniques used for urban fighting. The soldier heading the demonstration was a top-rate professional. Toward the end of the piece, the camera cut to the studio, where they surprised him by having his wife and two small children present. As the couple talked back and forth, it was apparent that there was something remarkable about them. It was courage. She, with two little ones in tow, smiling, saying I love you."We're so proud of you," she said. "I love you, too," he said, "I'll be coming back." They were confident, resolute and brave, models of courage at the remarkable age of 32, or maybe 33.

Then the piece was over. It was followed by a video clip of six or seven soldiers and a Web site you could visit to vote for the sexiest man in uniform. This is why courage is elusive. Courage is found in the middle and we tend to live in the extremes. We bounce from silly dating games to serious battle prep, without a lot in-between. We don't feed on substance. We are heavy on cocktail hour and dessert, but light on the meat and vegetables. Too bad, because it is in the main course where we find the nutrients for courage.

Courage is a discipline. Courage is the mental muscle that cuts a swath through fear. Courage can't cause fear to vanish or disappear. But courage can tell fear to shut up and sit down. Courage is an act of the mind, the process of taking every thought captive, examining each one, saying this one is pure panic and has to go; this is something I can act on, this one stays.

We have a unique opportunity before us. We have a chance right now, with our children, our family and friends, and our communities, to begin cultivating and modeling courage. In these unsettling days, we all hear the call for courage. The question is, how will we answer?

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JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here. To visit her website click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman