Unexpected Courage

When have you found unexpected courage?

It’s one of the questions we asked students last week during our residency at the Honors College at Rutgers University.  As the students explored our American Stories exhibit, they met some of the more challenging stories with wonder.

“I don’t think I could have done that,” one young man said when he read the story of how Bud Welch forgave his daughter’s killer.

“That seems almost impossible,” another said about Deanna Thompson reckoning with  stage 4 breast cancer and her own mortality.

Sometimes the problems of the world seem overwhelming and our ability to address them can seem insufficient. But the truth is, we can do big things. When faced with difficult circumstances, we find ways to uncover strength that can surprise us.

As we set up our studio and invited students to talk about when they had found unexpected courage, these same Rutgers students shared story after story of how they found strength, fortitude and bravery in the midst of challenging times.

One went abroad to study thousands of miles from home and family. Another stood up for a friend who was regularly bullied. Another stopped to help at the scene of a deadly accident.

It’s important to remember the times when we got things right. We need to remind ourselves of those moments when we were the best sort of humans and that success can serve as our model for moving forward.

These stories move me. They encourage me. And they hold the promise that something better is possible.

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