What is Courage?


“Without COURAGE, we cannot practice any other virtue consistently.”
– Maya Angelou

Courage as a root word come from the Latin root “cor” which means heart. It evolved to mean bravery. I think its original root tells the true source and nature of courage in humanity. I believe it takes heart or caring to act courageously.

I have three examples of what I would call courageous behavior. These are examples of people who have taken bold steps in their lives and made some big and invaluable changes to our past, present, and even for my, our, and their own futures.

One is from the past and goes into the present. The person I would call courageous is Dame Stephanie Shirley also known as Steve Shirley who founded Freelance Programers in 1962, an all woman computer company. Her story is well told in a TED talk and, particularly, from TED talks on NPR.org.

This is the link: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/?showDate=2016-10-14
The show about Steve Shirley, as she is known in the business world, is:
“Dame Stephanie Shirley: How Do You Break Into an Industry While Breaking ALL the rules?”

Another example is a continuation of a story about the courage of the 21 children who are part of Our Children’s Trust who are suing the U.S. Federal Government about climate change and its impact on all of their futures and its impact on all children on the planet. You can see the other climate actions taking place around the world because of these kids when you go to their website:

These children and young adults appeared in court again in Eugene, OR along with their lawyers to continue the fight on September 7. No decision has been reached, yet. The fact that they are from all over the USA and are fighting for all American children and children world wide is very inspiring and courageous to me. They are legally fighting oil companies, and some of the biggest industries in this country. In my previous blog, I spoke about the youngest person, Levi Draheim, who is a plaintiff and who you can see in the corner of the photo in this story about Our Children’s Trust from that September 7, 2016.

Generational injustice: Inside the legal movement suing for climate action now

These young people are influencing other youths to step up and courageously join this law suit. From Maine, here is another story.

The final group where I have witnessed great courage, is Black Lives Matter movement. The first protests took great courage. Our “justice” system is broken for people of color. This truth has been hidden all over the USA for years. Exposing the lack of justice, particularly for African Americans, has taken great courage. Incarceration in the USA was becoming another “business”, that was destroying the lives of so many Americans of color. Our police forces have become more militarized. Not to mention the great number of innocent black people, women and men, who have died at the hands of some of our police officers.

This is not an easy or simple problem to solve. We cannot blame the entire problem on our police officers. I taught one summer at an inner city school. The school where I taught was only in a medium-size city. What I saw and the hopeless I saw in the 10 year-old children as assistant in the classroom, was deeply depressing and baffling. These kinds of neighborhoods are all across this country. This level of hopelessness exacerbates healing in these communities. This is a major problem to tackle and REAL CARE, not just window dressing, will “fix” it. I do not have the answers here. What I do know is that we have to work together in a respectful way of all people and face this together because whether we like it or not, we ALL created these neighborhoods with the history of race and racism that this country has had.

This is the story of the founding of the Black Lives Matter Movement:

It is people and children such as these that give me hope about our future. So often in the past and now, we are waiting for our political leaders to tackle what we need to change. We citizens and individuals working together, can be courageous together, just as Stephanie Shirley was and Our Children’s Trust and Black Lives Matter are already changing our world now for the better for each and every one of us.


Maya Angelou, My Shero

In 2010 in Charlotte, NC, I had the good fortune to hear and see Maya Angelou speak at “Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon”, which raised and still raises money for the United Negro College Fund. The photo on the lower left is a fuzzy image of Ms. Angelou. Unfortunately, the throw away camera I used that day did not capture this giant of an amazing woman. She is my shero because she speaks and spoke for all of us humans in such an eloquent and loving way. She is my kind of woman leader, and she lived values that I embrace. The peach color hat in the right corner was the one I wore that day I saw her. What a privilege that was to finally see and hear her distinctive, captivating voice, live!

At the Manchester School of Technology Adult Education Center, where I worked in Manchester, NH, I first became acquainted with Maya Angelou and heard her name when my boss, Sandra, who came from Virginia and whose daughter went to Wake Forest University, spoke about her. That was about 1993. The first time I tried to see Maya Angelou was when I wanted to get her book autographed in Boston. There were so many people at the bookstore, that I could not get “The Heart of a Woman” autographed for myself and my boss. I was did not fully understand that book until a few years later, when I finally woke up as a white woman to the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had not corrected all of the everyday, systemic injustices, and ignorance that were still a real part of the lives of people of African Americans, Latinos, Middle Easterners, and Asians in this country.

My love for Maya Angelou grew as a teacher when I taught excerpts from “I Know How the Caged Bird Sings” to American children. When I bought my own copy, and I finally read the entire book, she spoke for me, too. Through the years, I would watch her on “Oprah” when it was still on ABC and hang on her every word. Ms. Angelou encourages me from the grave to keep writing with:

“You may not think you can reach it. CLIMB ANYWAY. You may not think you’ll be heard. SPEAK ANYWAY. You may not think you can change things. TRY ANYWAY”

– Maya Angelou from “Words of HOPE and COURAGE.”

Her life was a testament of Courage and HOPE. She was a singer, writer, poet, thinker, dancer, professor, and social activist. She was a single mother, like I am. She befriended many of the greatest thinkers of the 20 th Century: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, and had to overcome and forgive that her friends were gunned down as young men and fathers. Her poems, such as “And I Still Rise”, raise all of us humans and tell us a true story of our past and present. See her perform it.

Maya Angelou’s last project was completed the year she died. “Caged Bird Songs”. She performed the vocals and, naturally, wrote the lyrics. Her first song “Human Family” honors all of us humans. I love the refrain:
“We are more alike, my friend, than we are unlike.”
Take a listen to her:

Until the end of her life, Maya Angelou was trying to help heal our planet and the division between us humans. Thank you so much, Ms. Angelou, for leaving us your words of WISDOM, my SHERO. I know Maya Angelou’s words will keep inspiring me to try to bring all of us humans together. I hope they touch your hearts, too.


Falling Down and Getting Back Up

Recently, I fell down on a cement sidewalk. How we get back up is crucial. This is true with how we get back up after major life events, too: deaths, health problems, divorces, moves to new towns or cities, losing a job you love, or completing our education.

fallen tree

Fallen tree

Initially when overcoming major set backs, I have sometimes felt depressed for a while, and then grieved the loss of the job, family member, or spouse after a divorce, or something I believed I failed at. However, at the end of the grieving process, it seemed new possibilities arose, but I had to be open to those possibilities. I always have found Maya Angelou’s poem inspiring and helpful.

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou.  Although you died on May 28, 2014, still you rise and teach us with the words you shared with us.

tree leaning

Tree leaning

In the process of starting over after a set back, I have grieved sometimes over a period of months. There is no time clock for grief. It seems in the USA often  if you cry too much, there is a belief that something is wrong with you. Often you are considered weak, and if you are a man who grieves, well …we are very hard on men!  I think this is a falsehood. When you grieve you are willing to be vulnerable, to not be in control,  and that takes a lot of courage and honesty with yourself. My tears have given me freedom to get back up and start anew.

pine tree

pine tree standing tall

This ability to rise again after I have had a major life challenge is linked to persistence and my commitment to my own life. Expecting what happens in my live to be easy, has not been my reality, and I speculate that is true for most of us humans. If I persist towards my own dreams and get back up after a set back, I feel good about myself.  Here is a TED talk about persistence and what Angela Duckworth calls Grit.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”  – Benjamin Franklin



Life is an AND


In life EVERYTHING  is an AND. The world and nature includes everything under the sun.

tall pine tree

tall pine tree

In nature there are tall AND short pine trees.

short pine tree

short pine tree

Trees are old AND young. We humans do not judge a young tree better than a old tree.  So WHY do we judge YOUNG humans BETTER than OLD humans?

old tree

old tree

Aren’t old humans AND young humans equally important to our world and our countries? Or is it that young people we judge look better than old people in our culture? Or have we bought into media images?

young tree

young tree

As people we are tall AND short, heavy AND thin, dark-skinned AND light-skinned, rich AND poor, and all of us logically and legally know we need to be valued equally. But we aren’t and we ALL know this, too! Often those automatic value judgment of good or bad come from our own biases, particularly if we don’t question them. They also come from a society that does not acknowledge the inequities that are a way of “doing business” in this country.

“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, AND we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are EQUAL VALUE no matter what their color.”     –    Maya Angelou

All of us humans add something to each other’s lives, if I am open to recognize that. If I don’t let prejudging certain groups, faiths, and nationalities of people, and I don’t make  assumptions, I can learn and connect with others. This requires me to notice my own biased thinking. When I do this, my life is richer and full of AND.

“Men (women) hate each other because they fear each other, and they fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they are often separated from each other.”                Martin Luther King Jr.

Helen Turnbull has traveled the world as a thought leader on Unconscious Bias in the field for Global Inclusion for more than 26 years. Her TED talk is on Youtube:


All life and the people in it will continue to be an AND for me, what do you choose?



When Pigs Have Flown?

When Have Pigs Flown?

The idiomatic expression: “When pigs fly” has been around since the 1600s and implies sarcastically that something is NOT possible. I want to turn that expression on its head and suggest that there have been times when pigs have flown.

flying pig on key chain

Flying Pig

Certain events in American history since the 1800s have had  profound effects on beginning to transform many of us humans to become more humane and respectful towards each other. We still have a ways to go.

1. When slavery ended in 1865 in the USA

2. When women suffrage made it possible for women to vote in 1919

3. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed

flying pig on key chain 2

another flying pig

It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like air: we all have it or none of us has it. This is the truth of it.”    – Maya Angelou

4. When the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and then was renewed in  2013.

5. When in 1969 man landed on the moon and all of us humans could see the earth as one planet with NO boundaries.

6. When in 1967 interracial marriage was legalized everywhere in the USA.

7. The beginning of this millennium there was conclusive DNA evidence that ALL humans originated in Africa and that we are ONE human family.

One of the important geneticists who worked on establishing this evidence was Dr. Spencer Wells, who gave a TED talk on this subject:


Optimism about these bills and this knowledge we’ve gain when “pigs have flown”  is all good and are nice concepts in our heads. However,  it is up to you and me to search my own and your own heart to fully manifest these “when pigs have flown” events in my own and your own daily actions towards all people. Our government  and all the laws we pass won’t save us or make us behave better towards each other.

“A little less complaint and whining and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.” 

W. E. B. Dubois

What is your pigs have flown list?