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GUEST COLUMN: Sometimes we are profiles in courage

Willie Mae Samuel

Willie Mae Samuel, founder and director of the African American Connection for the Performing Arts in Rome

 Sometimes when we are in the forest, we concentrate on just one old fallen tree, and we forget about the beautiful trees that are still standing. We may even think that the one tree represents all trees. We look around, and we see newly growing trees of all kind, and it is at that point in time that we may realize that even a forest has to go through constant renewal.

The story of America’s democracy is one that we can all tell about with different levels of jubilation. This is just our renewal time here in America. We are spending our time and energy on the fallen dead trees that might not have gotten enough water or sunshine. We must look up and know that there is quiet courage being shown all around us, and all we must do is listen and pay attention. Let us take the ‘glass half full’ outlook.

Many people are standing up to hate not just in others but in self. Many are standing up to division, many are standing on ethics and principles. Many people are listening to each other and are making an attempt to find common ground. Three or four years ago a local group decided to take some proactive measures in our community. The main theme is “Let’s Talk.” Many are finding a safe place to rest and be listened to even with those who are different. When I saw the One Community United group dining on the bridge eating, sharing and spending time with each other, I thought now these are just some of the quiet acts of courage being expressed in the midst of the raging storms that are taking place physically, emotionally, politically, socially and spiritually in our area.

My position is that everybody cannot be a part of everything, but everybody should be a part of something. Each of us must be willing to rise to the sense of who we are. We must be the best self that we can be. In order to do that, we must dig a little deeper to find out who we really are. We have got to do hard things sometimes for the sake of others.

In order to do that we must first accept that it is not all about us. Sometimes when we examine history, we may be looking for a straight line, and sometimes when we see a jagged or a crooked line, we may feel that there is no progress because it does not go in the upward trajectory. Not seeing the line going straight may sometimes be the cause of us becoming doubtful or cynical about life, especially our own. We cannot allow that cynicism to cloud our view about the hope and faith of this journey.

Our young people are listening and watching so we must remember to help remove the cloud of confusion and doubt that may be blocking their futuristic view. As adults we sometimes make so much noise about things that are temporal and trivial when we should share with the children who are our hope and our challenge that, despite all of the darkness in the world, we are still able to do big things. We can still show courage as we move forward.

I am reminded of all the young senators who were voted in at the same time that President Barak Obama was elected. These young senators believed in the “Yes, we can” theme and helped to save the banks and the automobile industries, and helped to save Wall Street. These men and women were able to examine their moral compass and were able to put the needs of millions before themselves. They voted for healthcare and lost their seats. These were senators who fit the profiles in courage that JFK spoke about. These young senators did the hard thing. The choice was to choose between maintaining their reputation of integrity or to maintain the office or party’s approval.

This quiet courage from within spoke to the decency of their character, and they chose to stand for the greater good. Their seats in Congress were lost, but each young senator should be able to sleep well knowing that many people would have died without healthcare over these last 8 years. Wherever these senators are today they should feel confident that they gave poor, older and marginalized people a few more days or weeks or years to live. Morality, integrity, ethics, personal standard, and a conscience are necessary for us to step up and show courage in the time of need. These men and women did.

Many people will step forward to help those who are popular, affluent, and/or powerful, but it takes courage to give aid to the poor, aging, and marginalized. The Word tells us that we have not done what God demands if we only help those who are rich or love only those who love us. The real test comes when we are told to love those who do not love us or are not lovable, and we do so.

We can help to advance the spirit of this country by advancing the spirit of service to others. This spirit is not the spirit of one individual, but each person can make a difference and each person should try. According to Dr. Martin Luther King, “The moral arm of the universe is long but it bends toward justice,” but man has to put his hand on that arm to help it bend toward freedom, justice, and liberty for all.

Progress is fragile and we have to handle it carefully in order to move it forward. The courage to step up is possible for each of us, and it is absolutely necessary. If man played no part in stepping up with courage nothing would change. Things do not automatically improve, man has to take action for change. Yes, we still can.

 Willie Mae Samuel is the founder and director of the African American Connection for the Performing Arts in Rome.