This is a question, how brave would I be, that I have recently been asking. I am always so in awe of those people that do such heroic acts, either as a one off or day in, day out.
It all began when I was listening to Annabel & Grace’s latest podcast the other day, (really funny by the way) when I started to have a search around the podcast world. I came across Letters from War – the reading of hundreds of letters, written between brothers fighting in the Pacific during WWII. It is an incredible and thought provoking series of podcasts that I listened to for hours. Young men suddenly being asked to face the ultimate act of bravery, to face death for their country and their beliefs.
Later that same week my husband and I watched the film, The Zookeeper’s Wife. The film tells the true story of how Jan and Antonina Żabiński rescued hundreds of Jews from the Germans by hiding them in their Warsaw zoo during WWII. The film tells a riveting and true story that is both inspiring and comes as a welcome reminder in this time of uncertainty, that even in the face of astonishing evil, humanity and goodness can also rise to the occasion.
I lay awake that night thinking about whether I could or would be as brave as any of these people. Would I risk being tortured and killed to save the lives of others? Does it take a special person to be brave? Would I rise to the occasion if faced with such a situation?
Death is our ultimate fear perhaps because we do not know what comes next. Human nature is always wanting to know. We are never satisfied with the now but are always looking to the future. It is a failing of our species.
I am sure all of you have watched a friend or loved one die. Are you not always amazed at how calm and brave they are? I recently watched a particularly courageous, young friend slowly die from cancer; but every time I saw her she was always so positive, enjoying every minute of every day that she had left. She never complained at her lot and she has left an extraordinary mark on the lives of all of those who knew her. Her bravery was remarkable.
In both the podcast and the film there did not seem to be a fear of death. In the film the doctor looking after the Jewish children is offered a way out but he chooses to go with the children to the camp in order to placate their fear. Death is easy but it is the fear of death that is the terrifying emotion and yet he had a calm acceptance that he wanted to instil in the children.
I am currently reading a book, The Wind in my Hair by Masih Alineejad. Masih was born in Iran in 1976. She became a celebrated political journalist in Iran where she was continually in trouble for her writing. She was forced to flee the country, leaving her parents, to escape arrest in 2009 in the aftermath of political unrest. This book is the story of a very courageous and brave woman with outstanding principles.
“Minutes went by and I walked around the cell some more. Still no one appeared. Gradually, a sense of unease crept in. It was very quiet. Not a sound could be heard. Nothing—no muffled voices, no hum of machinery, no sound of doors being slammed. What I distinctly remember is the silence that descended… I desperately wanted to hear another sound so that I knew I was not alone. The silence was eerie. It was so powerful that I didn’t want to make a sound, either.”Masih Alineejad
You see once again I was forced to wonder if I would stand up for what is right or would I just go for the easy option and a peaceful life?
I am such a coward. When I watch a thriller on TV and someone hears a noise and walks towards it I always shout out, ‘No, run.’ So maybe I am not the one to be put to the test as I think I already know what I would be like. But would I when actually faced with this fear? Do we all have something incredibly strong inside us that comes to the fore when needed?
We all have so much to live for, to love and to laugh about so I am thankful that I did not live through the dark days of WWII, or any war for that matter. I have not had to battle a terminal illness. I do not want for more of anything – life, laughter or love.
Every day heroism knows no boundaries, has no borders, does not recognise religious differences. It is a spark of humanity that allows us to strive to do good over evil. I truly hope that if I am ever faced with one of these challenges that I too will rise to the occasion.