We often talk about courage on a grand scale: the courage to chase our dreams; the courage to live simply; the courage to challenge the unsolvable problems of our day.
But how do we muster up that courage, when we live within the confines of our obligations daily? Why not learn to intentionally choose courage everyday?
I’m currently staying with a couple who run a community program for children in a low-income neighborhood in Ecuador. I’ve been so inspired by their quest to bless and nourish this neighborhood, where even some cab drivers in the city refuse to come. That’s identifiable courage.
But how do they do this on a daily basis? They make brave choices– both great and small. A momentary decision can be minute in comparison, but nonetheless courageous.
I’ve decided to start practicing more courage in my daily life. It’s not everyday that I get to travel to places like this and drink in the goodness of serving others. When I’m working or tending to other obligations, it feels like I don’t really need courage. So I made a list of things you and I can do– on practically any day– to be brave. And I focused on relationships and service, since those are the areas where we can regularly choose courage, and do the most good.
10 Simple Ways to be Brave Today
1) Call or write to someone you have not talked to in a long time.
Choose someone who might be difficult to get in touch with, and ask them how they’re doing. Don’t fault them for never getting back to you last time you tried to get in touch; simply bless them with words of encouragement, happy memories, and a prayer or two. Oh, and if you need to reconcile with them over a past conflict, do that too.
2) Bring a pie (or other homemade goodie) to your least favorite neighbor.
When was the last time you talked to your neighbor? If you grew up in an area anything like I did, you probably didn’t even know your neighbors’ names. It’s sad, I think, that many of us don’t spend more time with the people we live near. Because, how great would it be if your neighbor was also a great friend?
I don’t now about you, but we definitely have a less-than-favorite neighbor. I encourage you– challenge you, perhaps– to do something kind for that person this week!
3) Sign up to volunteer at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
Volunteering at such places may sound cliche, but they are no less important. I once read someone who wrote, “In order to solve a problem, we might have to touch the problem.” Convicting, isn’t it? I’d love to solve issues of poverty in my neighborhood; but am I willing to touch poverty– perhaps to be affected by it?
4) Invite a new friend to have coffee or lunch with you.
Making new friends can become more difficult in adulthood– does it not? Unlike in school, many people have priorities that do not include socializing at all; much less to build deep friendships. But we all need friends, and we all see potential friends in our realm. I know I just need to muster up the courage to dig deeper.
5) Write an email to someone you admire.
Introduce yourself and explain why you love what they do. Encourage them. No matter how great a person’s achievements, or how many admirers they have, they need to know that their contribution matters personally to someone. Be that person!
6) Confess a struggle to a close friend and ask him/her to help you overcome it.
Sometimes the toughest battles we fight are within us. And often the hardest thing we can imagine is telling someone about it. I’ve confessed feelings of envy, humiliation, anger, and more to my husband and to friends, only to find that I am just a bit more liberated, and our friendship is a bit more intimate. It’s worth it.
7) Serve someone in your family who often serves you.
We get into these patterns at home where one person usually contributes in one way, and the other person in other ways. Offer to change it up, and do someone else’s work around the house. If your mom usually cooks, offer to do so in her stead. If your husband usually cleans the bathroom, offer to do it this time. It might feel odd– awkward, even– but you’ll learn what it’s like to serve you, which is a valuable lesson!
8) Give 10% of the money you made last week to a cause that matters to you.
Oh, the classic 10 percent… so small, and yet so great. When I first learned about tithing, I was surprised it was only 10% of one’s income (or possessions, however you want to read it). I remember thinking, 10 percent?! that’s it?! But how often do we actually calculate those earnings and write that check? Wouldn’t we much rather tell ourselves that we’ll give when we’re more financially comfortable?
So go ahead, choose an organization and hand that money over now. Here’s a piece I wrote on one of my favorite organizations that fights poverty and violence.
9) Research and begin learning a skill you’ve always wanted to.
If there’s a skill you want to learn, then stop making excuses! Today is the day. Find out what it will cost (money and time) to learn that skill, and go at it!
10) Spend some time walking (or driving) through a part of town you don’t visit often.
We all know that part of town we’d rather not walk through. Perhaps it’s an “ethnoburb” and we just feel mildly uncomfortable that we don’t belong. Or, it’s a crime-ridden neighborhood with a reputation to match. Either way, if it’s nearby, I encourage you to get to know it. Be safe, of course, but be brave too– ask yourself what the needs are in that community, and what sets it apart from others. Who are the influencers there? How can you, potentially, contribute to it?