I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
This blog is going to be different from my regular, issue-driven posts. In this piece, I want to pay homage to courage by revisiting several unconventionally courageous people of the past.
Harriet Tubman (1819-1820) Born into slavery, yet the symbol of the American freedom movement. Leaving her husband behind, Harriet escaped from slavery in 1849. Because of her courage and concern for her fellow man, Harriet Tubman began working as a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, a secret system of homes and safe havens across the Southern States. In 1850, when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, her work became even more dangerous, but she did not stop. She simply moved to Canada and continued “conducting” slaves to freedom during trips back to the States. Over the course of her life, she helped over 300 men, women, and children escape the bonds of slavery.
Irena Sendler (1910-2008) What can be more courageous than laying down your own life for those who cannot save themselves? Irena Sendler, known as “the female Oskar Schindler“, saved over 2,500 Jews during World War II. This unsung heroine withstood torture from the German army when interrogated to give up the locations of thousands of escaped Jewish children. By courageously standing up for persecuted children in Nazi Germany, Irena Sendler became an unsung hero of world history.
John and Betty Stam (Martyred in China, 1934) Leaving family and friends behind, twenty-somethings John and Betty Stam moved to China to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As some of the first missionaries to find their way to Tsingteh (today, Jingde) in South Ahhwei, China, the Stams quickly immersed themselves in the culture and lives of the people within the walled city. While tensions in China rose, the Stams continued to go about their daily lives, courageously believing in God’s will. A Communist attack upon the city ended in the brutal martyrdom of the couple, but in a miraculous act of divine preservation, their baby, Helen, was spared and safely conveyed to her grandparents. Even today, thousands of people are continuously inspired to live courageous lives because of the Stam’s.
Unknown Rebel (July 5, 1989 – Tienanmen Square, Beijing, China) Virtually nothing is known of the lone man that opposed the entire People’s Liberation Army of China. Staring down an army of advancing tanks pretty much defines courage, don’t you think? Yet, history has recorded nothing of this man. Some people believe he was a protesting student; some believe he was a passerby who decided to take a stand. All we know is that he was an unarmed man wearing a white shirt who was willing to stand against oppression.
There is nothing left for me to add to this list of courageous individuals. I cannot improve upon the testament of their lives. Thousands of heroes dot the pages of history; we have only to learn from their passion, grow stronger from their courage, and faithfully emulate their stand for personal convictions. If we, as 21st century citizens, stand up to the tyranny of fear and oppression, we will be counted with these unsung heroes. I’m willing to stand up and be counted. Are you?