Monday, July 16, 2007

Ordinary Courage

The kids and I stopped at McDonald's during a longish drive yesterday to take advantage of the air conditioned play structures. Jake played hard and eventually, Claire wanted to join him. I sent her toward the steps and asked Jake to keep an eye on her. The play structure was crowded and Claire hasn't learned how to watch out for herself yet.

After a while, I heard Jake's voice ring out. "That's my sister!" I started scanning the tubes and slides, looking for trouble. Then Claire came shooting out of a slide, unperturbed. Jake was right behind her. He saw me, screamed, and ran toward me crying and shaking. A big mama bear hug eventually calmed him down enough for me to get the story. Two boys had targeted Jake and Claire. They followed along, right on my kids' heels, and threatened Jacob. The older one, who was probably 8 or 9, told Jake that they were going to keep after him. At that point, Jake started to panic and protested that they should leave Claire alone. He pushed her through the tubes until they found an exit.

I was furious, of course. I had Jake point out the boys to me. I couldn't find a parent for them in the crowd. The older boy avoided my gaze, but the younger one looked at me. I stared at him until he averted his eyes and shuffled off. I really wish that I had been able to find a parent. Then again, perhaps if the parent had been present, the boys would not have been bullying kids in the tubes.

I am proud of Jacob's response to the incident. He had the courage to face those boys down until his sister was safe. He held himself together and took care of business. He could have abandoned Claire, screamed for help, or even fought the boys. But instead, he swallowed his fear and took care of his own.

Extraordinary courage is easy to see and admire - and is certainly worthy of admiration. The ordinary courage of everyday life is easy to overlook, easy to dismiss. But everyday courage like Jake's is the bedrock of an ethical life. It allows us to find dignified responses to undignified situations. It gives us the strength to live by our own convictions while facing those who would have us abandon them. In such a small incident, I can see a bit of the man Jake will become. I am so, so hopeful for his future.

1 comment:

Katie Alender said...

Aw! Poor Jake. But good for him!

Clearly I'm not ready to be a parent because I would have gone and knocked those kids over, LOL.