Courage is Acceptance

FullSizeRenderBy: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

Recently, six amazingly brave people climbed on an oil rig that is still headed to the Arctic. These six people were part of a Greenpeace mission to stop Shell from drilling in the arctic. Along side this direct action, Greenpeace also  started a conversation about what courage is.  Then I ran across a post about living cross culturally and I remembered that this Saturday is Global Citizen Earth Day.  Suddenly, courage was an international question. I began thinking about courage, acceptance, and my cross cultural life as interconnected concepts.

Living abroad has taught me a lot of things, and has involved a strange mix of struggle and beauty. Yet, of all the things I have seen, and learned by  living in a world of cultural mixing, I think the most important is that accepting difference is brave, even courageous.

When I am experience someone’s difference, or a different culture, when I am confronted with a different idea about how to greet my neighbor or how to pray, I have two choices. I can degrade the things I find strange and different, or I can accept them.

It takes a lot of courage to accept difference. It is easier to degrade it, and our history as humans has shown that humanity often takes this easier route. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, even the degradation of the earth can all be seen as ways we humans have tried to degrade difference.

But every day each of us has the chance to choose something else, to be brave, to embrace difference. I may not understand someone else’s faith, but I can be brave and accept that it is true for them. My support of Greenpeace’s direct action against Shell may seem wrong and strange to you, but you can be brave, you can accept that this is my path, my way of saving the planet.

We are each called to our own spiritual journey, our own life path, our own interpretation of faith, we all have our own passions, our own beliefs, our own way to save the world. Be we can all also share the common courage of accepting each other’s difference. Courage isn’t belittling the things we find different, courage is accepting them and seeing if they hold any truth for our path.

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The Courage to Start Over

We’re pleased to share a guest post from Aya Nejim who is a young English teacher with zeal to feed young minds and her own passion for knowledge. Aya lives in both Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Cairo, Egypt and currently pursuing her Master’s degree. Aya shares with us how starting over is all about the courage to write and rewrite your own story as you see fit.

Many of us live our lives without asking or thinking about things that make them happy, until something catastrophic happens to derail that happiness. I mean something that blocks the everyday course of action, in which we are usually robots functioning without stopping for a second to think.

Sometimes it is a loss of a friend, or even someone we don’t know; the mere saddening theme of death or loss. The notion that you know something or someone is gone and will never come back. Other times it could be something more trivial like a farewell scene in an airport or train station. It is in such moments that we actually stop for a second and start to ponder, to engage in a profound contemplation about our lives and suddenly all our dreams float to the surface. Right there, we feel as if we are floating through million clashing thoughts just like waves in a roaring ocean.

Well, for me the wakeup call was a very harsh year in which I lost almost everything; my job, my belongings, my income, almost everything, even my dad I was on the verge of losing him. He suffered from a severe heart stroke; I was alone with him in the hospital, watching him suffer while life being sucked out of him. There were moments when he didn’t recognize me or know where we were. I saw my whole life shatter in front of me, while all I could do was stand there in the middle, watching it all fall apart. My dad was my whole life.

There was a time when his heart actually stopped and I had to stand outside and watch while the doctors revive him back. I will never forget that moment in my life, I never felt so vulnerable or weak before. I started to contemplate on what meant the most to me in life and why? My dad is recovered now, but I looked around me and examined the lives of those close to me and realized I didn’t like nor want any of their lives. That was the moment I realized that I deserve better.

I wanted to start over but I was afraid. I fear it because starting over requires change and I have come to realize that I fear change more than death because I don’t know what lies ahead and thus don’t know how to act. Now I know that as much as it is scary to start over, it is also liberating and fruitful. So, I am not going to be afraid anymore to start over. If I won’t be the writer of my own story, who will? I feel I owe it to myself to be happy, to try and explore myself, to look beyond all these years that passed and re-live my life again.

Some of us are fortunate enough to realize in their moments of contemplation that they are on the right track and actually pursuing their dreams or that they are happy and content with the lives they lead. However, for some of us, tragic moments make us ponder about the “why”, the “how” of our lives. They make us wonder “what happened” to all of our dreams and what makes us keep postponing our plans. For a moment, I thought, what if tomorrow was my last day? What would I do? I could not stop thinking and that’s when I overcame my fear and decided to be free, to be alive, to start over.