A few months ago I performed a portion of my solo play A Little Potato and Hard to Peel for a morning assembly at a high school in Nashville, TN. I had to cut the show to 25 minutes and felt good about the cutting and thought it had gone well with the audience. It was a tough audience; a high school in a morning assembly is never the easiest audience, but they were with me. They were laughing and I felt a good energy. The assembly ended and the kids were shuffling out for the remainder of their day. I started to put away my props.
“Excuse me sir, where do you find your courage?” I stopped putting away my props and looked down to see a young man staring up at me. “I’m sorry?” I asked.
“Where do you find your courage?” he asked again. I could see his left arm is missing just below the elbow; he is a congenital amputee like me.
I was at a loss for words. I had flashes from events in my life: singing Neil Diamond songs to my entire family at six years old, rapping my student council speech in 8th grade, walking confidently through grocery stores while I feel the stares of strangers. Where did my courage come from? How did I find the confidence to perform in front of an entire high school in Nashville, TN?
“I don’t know,” was my reply. “I think it is just something I learned.”
A friend of mine had recently worked on the live version of “The Wiz” for NBC. So, I guess that is the reason I continued by saying, “It’s kinda like the cowardly lion; our courage is already inside of us, we just have to keep trying to build our courage.”
The kid nodded his head; I think he knew this already. He did walk through his peers to the front of a stage to ask a stranger this question. That takes courage, doesn’t it?
I talked with this kid for a good 10 minutes. He has an amazing story. He is a foreign exchange student from China, he has the support of his family, and he might be one of the smartest kids in his class. But he thinks he doesn’t have courage. Or that he needs to find it somewhere.
I spent the time we talked reminding him everything he told me he was doing takes courage. How often do we not give ourselves the credit we deserve? Navigating this world takes courage, living our lives to the fullest takes courage, but the courage to do this is already inside of us. Fear and uncertainty will always be present in our lives but courage is reminding ourselves we have capacity and capability to achieve our goals…and then getting out there and doing it!