I just finished listening to Malala Yousafzai’s audiobook – that’s right – I finished a book! An honest to goodness book for the first time in months!
(Leland discovered this app called Overdrive that allows you to rent and listen to audiobooks on your phone! (He only shared it with me in response to my grouchiness at having to drive nine hours without stopping by the library for an audiobook). I love it! I’ve been up the last couple nights just cleaning and organizing till the early morning – and enjoying it because I could listen to a book! Fantastic discovery.)
One of the final thoughts I had coming out of Malala’s story was about courage. Here are these fairly ordinary people, Malala and her friends and family, standing up and speaking out for a girl’s right to go to school. Malala and her father continued to speak out (loudly), even though they knew there was a high chance of being harmed or killed because of it.
I came out thinking what a coward I am . . . It’s rare for me to speak out loudly about anything. How often have I silently shook my head at something and said nothing? No one is going to shoot me in the face for speaking out and defending things I know are right (at least . . . the possibility is minute compared to Pakistan). No one is going to kill my family, or bomb my home, or kill me in the night for standing up for what’s right.
It’s so easy to stand for what’s right in America, so why don’t I do it?
Is it because life in America is so good? Sure, there are things that aren’t right, but nothing bad enough for me to stand up and do anything about it. If something really bad happened, like kicking girls out of schools, you bet I’d stand up and speak . . .
But would I?
Malala and her family are remarkable because, despite how wrong things were in Pakistan, many other people just let it happen. They didn’t do anything. So, is it just personality? Malala and her father seemed like strong, commanding people. If you’re not like that, maybe you’re not meant to stand up? Is it just coincidence?
Malala’s story reminded me a bit of Katniss in the Hunger Games series. Katniss wasn’t anyone extraordinary. She had the courage to stand up for what she believed in when she took her sister’s place in the games, and that action somehow resonated with people, and she became a symbol to them. Malala seems the same. I’m sure there are many other people in the world like her, who courageously stand up for what’s right – but never gain the kind of influence she did.
Maybe it’s just coincidence who falls into the role of a nation’s symbol and hero: people like Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln. You can see that Lincoln could have easily lived and died a man (albeit a good one) very few would have remembered. But, one thing after another happened, and he became President of the United States. Even then, would he have been as famous if he hadn’t been leader during such a tumultuous and pivotal time in American history? Perhaps not.
But, the point, I suppose, is: I need to be more courageous. Here, in America, I am SO blessed. I have incredible freedom and opportunity. I can stand and fight for so much good and against all sorts of evils and wrongs. My life is very easy and safe. I have been so blessed. But, the world is still full of “wrongs that should be righted”, and I need to have the courage to speak out and fight for right with the courage Malala shows in her story.
I heard a story once of a two men who attended a friend’s funeral. The preacher at the pulpit went on and on about how the diseased man never offended anyone. The man in the pew leaned over to his neighbour and said, “That’s because he never did anything!”
That hit me hard. I was the type who liked to slip in silently and listen, nodding along with whoever I agreed with, and creating arguments against the ones I didn’t – but only in my head. I hate conflict with a fiery passion, so speaking up against anything is scary for me…
But the question for all of us, I guess: When the time comes when something truly important comes along, will you have the courage to do what is right?
We shake our heads at the cowards in history and our novels – but what if we are the cowards in our own life – in our cushy, cozy part of a world that still has so many “wrongs that should be righted”…