Love: Our work is grounded in love, by which we mean the capacity to extend ourselves for the sake of another person’s growth. Our work in community stretches us to understand, respect, and support each other, teaching us why learning to love is one of the most demanding disciplines we can choose.
Why love? Rightly understood, love is the value that undergirds our most noble human values. Love activates, empowers and encourages the growth of our other core values. Love is the ideal touchstone and the ultimate facilitator.
In our Circles, regardless of zip code, census tract or homeland, participants become neighbors. Love plants the seeds of friendship and guides their tending over time in the midst of rich and challenging human diversity. Love instinctively instructs our listening and shapes our deep voices.
In our highly politicized and commercialized society, words are exploited to influence our behavior as consumers and citizens. Love is a word that inspires attention, beckons cherished memories and long deferred dreams alike, and alerts critics. By default the skeptic, the cynic and the wounded hearts silently whisper “what’s love got to do with it?”
Love has everything to do with Courage. As a community we know that the root of the word courage is cor, the Latin word for heart. In its earlier forms, the word courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart,” or “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” Love heals, reconciles and opens our broken hearts and carefully softens hearts hardened by the harsh realities of leading, serving and living. Love practiced encourages the conditions from which courage emerges.
I am reminded of the relationship of Kanga and her son Roo. Kanga was not known for her courage but if Roo was in danger, she was the most courageous of them all. Winnie the Pooh knew the simple truth that courage comes from love. Ask civil rights pioneers or human rights devotees across this shared planet and many will echo the insight of beloved Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Our Circles equip us for mastery of the small things that honor the human soul and liberate dormant human gifts.
What new name will we give love in the face of continuous deformation and distortion? Or do we dare stand our ground and commit ourselves to the tedious cultural labor of the reframing, redefining and reclaiming of what love is in our society and this world.
Agape love is the core value of the quest for Beloved Community. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of three kinds of love: eros (romantic love), philia, (friendship love) and agape which he described as an understanding, redeeming goodwill for all; an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, creative and seeking to preserve and create community. We also often cite Dr. King’s wisdom on power and love: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Our ways of being present with and to one another must not be reduced to a sentimental journey. Our journey is about love and the realized power to effect change for humanity’s good.
As we observe this day by exchanging valentines, cards, flowers and other tokens of affection, may we be mindful of the value beneath the sentiment. May we love as if our lives and our world depend on it. Happy Valentines Day Beloved Community.
Estrus Tucker is a facilitator and member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Courage & Renewal. He is also an independent consultant and keynote speaker specializing in small and large group facilitation, focusing on personal, professional and community renewal, transformation, healing and reconciliation. Estrus currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Tarrant County Workforce Development Board, National Center for Courage & Renewal Board, Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation (University of Mississippi), Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP), Brite Divinity School Board of Visitors and the International Assoc. Of Human Rights Agencies Board. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran and an ordained minister active in interfaith and ecumenical initiatives. Estrus is the 2012 recipient of the International Assoc. Of Human Rights Agencies’(IAOHRA) Individual Achievement Award for his work and leadership in support of creative civic engagement and transformational leadership in Mississippi; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Cape town, S. Africa and Texas. His mission is to inspire practices that promote human dignity and nonviolent engagement, in service of a world that works for all.
Courage comes in many shapes, sizes and forms. While racing into a burning building to save lives and helping out a person who is being robbed are certainly courageous and admirable acts, even smaller occurrences can count as acts of courage.
For example, confronting a bully or asking out a secret crush out on a date both require certain levels of bravery. Therefore, acts full of courage can happen on the grand scale, but also on the smaller, day to day life level.
Grand Acts of Courage
Whether through pop culture, the media or simply living in a world where people have to be brave and face obstacles, you'll probably find yourself familiar with some of the following acts of courage:
- Harriet Tubman leading slaves to freedom on the underground railroad.
- Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus.
- Martin Luther King Jr. standing up for equal rights.
- Joan of Arc facing harsh criticism and burning at the stake for her beliefs.
- Jesus Christ continuing to follow his faith, beliefs and mission despite being hanged on a cross, brutally beaten and attacked.
- The Pilgrims coming to the United States without any idea of what they were about to face.
- Anne Frank and her family living in secret and quiet to hide from the Nazis.
- The police, firefighters and citizens who rushed into buildings to save lives on September 11, 2001.
- The people aboard Flight 93 who prevented the terrorists from attacking the United States Capitol.
- Charles Lindbergh making the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris.
- Mother Teresa living amongst the poorest of the poor and helping them to thrive, learn and grow.
- Sir Edmund Hillary's climbing up Mount Everest.
- The American revolutionaries fighting for their freedom against Britain.
- All those who fought in the Civil War to end slavery.
- All those who have fought and who fight today for civil rights and equal rights.
- Women and men who put their lives and reputations on the line fighting for voting rights for women.
- People working for peace with global movements such as the Red Cross, UNICEF and the Peace Corps.
- Military personnel and their families defending the freedom of the United States.
These acts, and similar acts, demand great deals of courage. Many of these people put themselves in harm's way in order to do what is right.
Courage on a Daily Basis
Not all acts of courage need to be known worldwide to be defined as brave. Here are some examples of ways to be courageous in daily life.
- Trying a food that you've never tried before.
- Engaging in a new experience.
- Asking someone out on a date.
- Doing something that might be a little risky such as sky diving or riding a bike for the first time.
- Standing up for a person who is being picked on.
- Asking for a promotion or a raise at work.
- Helping out a person or animal in need, even if it might put you in a little bit of danger.
- Standing up for yourself.
- Leaving an abusive relationship.
- Taking a stand against an unfair social or economic practice.
- Doing something by yourself for the first time.
- Making a public presentation about something you believe in.
- Standing up against racism or prejudice.
- Leaving a job that you don't like and trying to find a new one.
- Signing up for a program or class that intimidates you.
- Checking out a soup kitchen, volunteer program, etc. to see if they offer any connections in helping to be more courageous.
Engaging in small acts such as the ones mentioned above can eventually lead you down the road toward more global acts of courage. Simply getting involved with a volunteer opportunity at the local level can open doors to bigger projects involving human rights or rescue opportunities.