Monday, July 18, 2011


The quintessential nerd that I am, I haven’t been able to stop my desire to learn this summer (despite my best efforts to forget Calculus J). I’ve been indulging my habit by reading some books about influential people. Upon my educational escapades, I’ve come to appreciate the actions of two extremely famous people in American History, an unlikely duo working toward the empowerment of oppressed African-Americans: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. I’ve come to learn about each one’s philosophies, background histories, and experiences. Although in some ways these men were like fire and ice, one trait they shared was their courage, their resolve to go against the grain and make a difference in the lives of others. As a novice to this whole “changing the world” business, I had believed this courage can only come to seasoned, well-known advocates for change. I very well could have stayed in my bubble of anti-bravery were it not for the efforts of my Gutsy Guru, who taught me that the courage to present one’s own ideas may bring enlightenment to all those around him/her.


You can do this, I thought to myself. Don’t psyche yourself out, you know what’s behind that door. Just face it and take care of it. YOU CAN DO THIS!

As I approached my bedroom door from the hallway, fiddling with my Malcolm X sunglasses, I tried to give myself this battle-worthy pep-talk to confront what I already knew was inside. I opened the door slowly, and saw….

STUFF. Stuff and stuff and more stuff, strewn on my bed, my desk, my floor, my walls! I had to recoil at the sight of the colossal mess in my bedroom. It looks like my closet threw up everything inside it! I thought. Rolling up my sleeves and sticking my sunglasses in my hair, I said to myself, “It’s gotta be conquered at some point, might as well take it down today!”

While putting clothes back into my ostensibly nauseous closet, I heard my cell-phone ringing. Of course, it took me a little while to excavate my phone from the layers of junk under which it was hidden, but luckily I answered it right before it went to voicemail. “Hello?” I answered.

“Hi, there!” an upbeat voice responded. “How are you, Abi?”

My Gutsy Guru! I thought. It’s been ages since I’ve heard this voice! “Hey, GG, I’m doing great! How about you?”

GG responded, “I’m pretty good, thanks! I called you because I was hoping you could give me some tips on a presentation I have to prepare for one of my classes.”

As long as you don’t mind that I’m battling the Closet Creature from Beyond, I’ll be happy to help, I thought. “I would love to help! I’m going to put you on speaker while I clean up around my room, okay?”

“Sounds good!” my GG said. With that, my GG began to give me the background info on this presentation. It was supposed to highlight a few inspiring people in history. When I had heard my GG’s suggestions of these figures, I was a bit surprised. Wow, these definitely are not the most popular or predictable figures to highlight. My surprise must have translated through the phone, because after finishing a thought, my GG said, “I know my plans are unconventional, but that is the effect I am looking for. I really want to get my classmates to open up to different ideas. I feel like a totally new viewpoint will make a bigger impact on how they see things versus the same old thing they see all the time.”

I replied, “I understand what you are trying to do. But aren’t you afraid of how they will respond? How their opinion of you may change, or how they may regard your examples?”

My GG confidently said, “Abi, I want my presentation to make an impact. If shaking up their world allows me to plant a seed and help change their lives, then I want nothing more than to scare them into a new perspective!” My GG and I couldn’t help but start laughing after that exclamation.

“Well, then,” I said, “I’m not sure if I can add anything to your plans, GG, but I’ll give my opinion for what it’s worth.” I gave my GG a couple of tips (which my GG really did not need because the plan was so great), and we hung up soon after.

The grammatical tips I gave my GG are totally insignificant compared to the gift my GG gave to me. During our short conversation, my GG had shown me the true nature of courage. My GG set aside what was accepted for what my GG believed was right, and was willing to sacrifice his/her standing in others’ opinions to expose his/her peers to new perspectives. This courage emboldened me to face the challenges both in my closet and in my life, and as a result, neither is too tough to handle any longer J

Lesson Learned: Bravery and Bravado are more different than three letters would lead someone to believe. Putting on a show of courage to make oneself seem more powerful or successful than someone else actually indicates how cowardly someone is to show his/her true colors. Sincere courage comes from one’s resolve to fight for one’s beliefs, especially in the face of opposition. By accepting the personal consequences of an action that will improve the lives of others, one demonstrates an essential trait that all courageous people, from the momentous match of Malcolm and Martin to my GG, value deeply.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Nelson Mandela

From caring comes courage.
Lao Tzu

1 comment:

  1. Another nice lesson, Abby. It seems to me that the greatest courage of the all is telling the truth, or put differently, the courage to speak truth to power which was what MLK and MX did in their own unique way. The injustices of segregation, discrimination and second class citizenship were facts known and lived out daily by nearly every African American right through the 1960s. But individuals of courage, and particularly young people, exactly 50 years ago this Summer launched the Freedom Rides. Many suffered and some died COURAGEOUSLY.

    Where have you seen the following quote as an email signature:

    Sapere Aude! (Latin: Have the courage to think, know, understand!)

    "Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular - but one must take it simply because it is right." --Dr. Martin L. King