As a kid I thought the bravest people were those who did dangerous things and seemed unphased by it. I’m not ready to completely abandon that definition (there are super brave firefighters and mountain climbers) but I’ve also realized that my definition was severely lacking. In the past two weeks I’ve had several chances to witness bravery in quiet, non-dangerous settings.
My twelve-year-old is quieter than most of my kids, he’s thoughtful, kind, and somewhat introverted. He likes to read, study science, and play games. He’s funny and clever and talented but he’s not loud and he’s not a thrill seeker. Two weeks ago, he had his first saxophone competition. He was nervous! So, so nervous. In fact, after his competition he had to sit down and take deep breaths because he was so close to passing out. I’m a crier (we all know that) and so of course I had tears in my eyes watching him play. He wasn’t fearless but he was brave and courageous and he did it! There was no threat on his life, no cliffs he might fall off of but there was a judge that made him nervous. He was brave and I loved witnessing it.
Just last week I went with my newly foster licensed friend to pick up her first placement. Her little charge is not even a month old, he’s not scary or threatening but it took bravery for her to sign that she’d be his caregiver. It took bravery for her to let this little guy into her home and heart. She watched us go through deep grief and loss when our first long term foster daughter left. She knows what’s at stake and yet, she did it. And she continues to be brave as she gets up and makes him a bottle in the middle of the night and she lets him snuggle on her chest and she baths him and kisses him. If risking our hearts for other people isn’t bravery than I don’t know what is. Bravery is so much more than being fearless or unphased.
Half the times I’ve had to be brave I’ve been near tears doing it. I remember having my first foster daughter climb on my lap and tell me she didn’t want to leave me. She’d been with us a year and a half and we loved her with all of our hearts. In that moment I wanted to tell her that I’d find a way for her to stay but I couldn’t and so I had to be brave and do what was best for her. I can still remember taking her little hand in mine and telling her that it would be okay. That by living with someone else she would have more people to love her. It eased her worries and was what she needed to hear but it hurt to say it. I walked away, went in my bathroom and sobbed. Not traditional bravery but one of the many moments that made me dig deep for strength and courage.
I’m rambling (what’s new) but as I’m editing and writing characters, I often find myself thinking about words like bravery, courage, and hero as I try to create real characters that my readers will enjoy and relate too. When readers tell me they like brave heroes and heroines, I think (and hope) that what they want is characters like my twelve-year-old and my friend who have trembled, doubted themselves, but ultimately done what had to be done, even while afraid.