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  • 7. January, 2016BlogComments are off

    “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ― Winston Churchill

    “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” ― Winston Churchill

    The word “courage” as defined in the dictionary is, “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.” It’s also defined as “bravery.” But the definition of courage, is, I believe, misunderstood. My understanding of what courage doesn’t really have anything to do with emotions; it’s not how we may feel about something; rather, it’s how we act or react to some event in our lives.

    Everyone is afraid of something, that’s normal and when someone says that they not afraid of anything, they are lying. Feeling fear is unavoidable. Some people are afraid of another person, or the dark, or dogs, or heights, or just about anything.

    My question to you, is what do you do when YOU have those fears? Do you avoid them as much as possible? Hide from them? Or do you face them and face them and consequences of facing them?

    This is the essence (essence used here means, the meaning of) of courage—getting up the strength and will to do something you strongly believe has to be done, even though you might be afraid to do it. Aristotle, one of the world’s greatest philosophers said, “We become brave by doing brave acts.” What do you think he meant by that? …………………………………… I believe that it means, even though we might be afraid to act, we do act and that makes us brave and courageous. Sometimes that helps us overcome our fears, but that’s not what is important…it’s our actions that are important.

    Courage also requires wisdom. You have to understand what the consequences of your actions are going to be and be totally honest with yourself about the possible consequences. For example: If someone was on a window ledge, five floors up, would you walk out on the ledge to try and convince the person to walk towards the window and come back into room, or would you speak to that person from inside the room to come towards you and come back into the room? Which would be the best solution to this problem? Years ago I was a lifeguard at a hotel named, The Granit Hotel in Kerhonkson, NY. As sometimes happens, I, as the lifeguard was put in a position to save a man’s life.

    I was watching the pool and a man yelled out, “save me, I’m drowning.” He was in the deep end of the pool and I dove in to rescue him. As I swam up to the man he was in panic mode and I tried to calm him be telling him I was there to help him. He wasn’t listening and grabbed me around my neck, trying to climb up on me as he did that. He pushed me under the water and I let that continue he along with me would have drowned. My training kicked in and I automatically kicked off, which means that I pulled my legs to my chest, put my feet into his chest and I pushed off, separating myself from him. He was still in panic mode, but I calmly told the man that I would save him if he would not struggle and fight me and to turn around with his back towards me. He said, “Okay,” and I turned him around and brought him to the edge of the pool where the other lifeguard was waiting to assist me. He was taken out of the water and was fine. My question to you is, what do you think would have happened to the man if I let him continue to climb up my body? What would have happened to me? What do you think I should have done if the man didn’t listen to me and continued to climb up my body?

    My whole point is to let you know that there is nothing courageous about taking unnecessary risks. Courage requires wisdom and knowledge about the consequences of your actions. To illustrate further my point; President Kennedy’s older brother Joe was a pilot in World War II and in 194 he volunteered to go on a secret bombing mission which was photographed by a second plane. This particular mission had never been attempted before and that was why it was filmed. During the mission, Kennedy and Willy were supposed to drop a 21,000-pound bomb on enemy territory, but the bomb exploded before it was dropped, killing Joseph Kennedy, Jr. and Wilford John Willy were killed instantly. Both men knew the risks involved and decided that it was worth it to take the risks because it would help America defeat their enemy. They were courageous men who are deserving of our respect and admiration. But there are some people that just run into situations without thinking and hurt either themselves or others. We must be very careful about taking chances.

    We as Jews are supposed to, as a matter of law, are required to help the needy, the oppressed and those wrongfully accused. That is why so many of our people over the ages have sacrificed much in order to help those less fortunate than we are.

    One such person was a poor woman named Rosa Parks. Rosa was an African American woman working to help her family survive in Montgomery, Alabama. She had no money for a car and had to take public transportation to and from work every day. On a Thursday December 1, 1955 Rosa bordered the green and white bus. She was very tired after a long workday of ironing and stitching shirts and was thrilled to find an empty seat on the bus.

    At the next stop, a white man boarded the bus. Because there were no empty seats he had to stand. The bus driver, James F. Blake noticed this and called out to the four black people who were sitting in the “white” section of the bus that they had to get up and move and give up their seats. No one stood up. Mr. Blake said, “You’d better make it light on yourself and let me have those seats.” Question: What do you think Mr. Blake meant by that statement? Three African American men who were sitting in the white section got up and moved to the rear of the bus and stood. But Rosa Parks refused. She had been in this situation many times before and had always gotten up and given her seat to white people. She always felt humiliated for having to do this because as she later said, “It meant that I didn’t have a right to do anything but get on the bus, give them my fare, and then be pushed around wherever they wanted me.” It is interesting to know that this same bus driver a year before had removed Rosa from the bus because she refused to get on the bus from the back door. Rosa was tired and wasn’t in the mood to be pushed around again and told the driver that she wasn’t in the white section. He shouted to Rosa Parks to move to the back of the bus or else he was going to call the police and she was going to be arrested. Rosa Parks told the bus driver that he could do whatever he had to do because she wasn’t moving. Question: Do you think that Rosa Parks was being brave? Why or why not?

    Since there weren’t cell phones in those days, the driver, Mr. Blake had to stop the bus and make the call to the police. The police came and as he placed Rosa Parks under arrest she asked him, “Why do you people push us around?” The officer looked at her and responded, “I don’t know. I’m just obeying the law.” Question: The officer sounded like he didn’t like the law, but he decided that he had to obey it. What would you have done if you were that officer? Would you have been willing to face the consequences of not orders from your superiors?

    Rosa Parks was arrested and taken to the police station, where she was booked and while she was being fingerprinted she said that she was thirsty and asked if she could have a drink of water. She was told that the only water fountain in the police station was “for whites only,” by the policeman. Then, a policewoman was called and marched her to her cell and locked her inside. Rosa Parks had never been arrested for anything before this incident, and now she was considered to be a criminal by the officials of Montgomery, Alabama.

    Because Rosa Parks decided to fight her arrest in court instead of just giving in and pleading guilty led to the black community of Montgomery to organize a bus boycott (refusing to do something), of the transportation system. This started on December 5th of 1955 and lasted 381 days. That’s correct, the African American people of Montgomery, Alabama refused to ride of the buses to work, to go shopping, or to go to the movies, or to do anything else. Some of the people that refused to ride the buses to work walked as far as 20 miles each way to work. Question: Since cars were expensive, most working people could not afford to own them, so most people walked to work, while those lucky enough to afford a car drove their friends to and from work. Were these people courageous? Why or why not? What do you think you would have done if you were in their situation?

    Rosa Parks went to court and pleaded innocent to the charges, but was found guilty of breaking the bus segregation (segregation here means to keep separate), and was ordered to pay a fine of $10.00, plus $4.00 in court costs. She refused and appealed the court’s decision, which meant that the case would go to a higher court.

    While Rosa Parks was in the courtroom a large crowd made up of her neighbors waited anxiously outside for her to appear. Many of these people were worried that Mrs. Parks was going to be harmed because it was not unusual for African American men and woman back then to be harmed if they fought the segregation laws of the south. Some of the men in the crowd were angry at the way their people had been treated in the south and had come to the courthouse with shotguns, ready to force their way into the courthouse to make sure that Mrs. Parks was safe. Rosa Parks finally appeared after her trial and a great roar went up from the crowd.

    After the 381day boycott of the bus system in Montgomery the city rescinded or repealed (took back), it’s laws requiring segregation on public buses. Just to be clear, the politicians of Montgomery, Alabama didn’t repeal the bus segregation laws because the realized that it was a terrible thing. They repealed the law because the boycott was hurting the financial system of Montgomery so badly that there was a possibility of the city of going bankrupt.

    However, when the case came to the Supreme Court of our country (the highest court in our country), the bus segregation law was declared (decided) unconstitutional (which means that it was against our constitution and not allowed. But all was not good for Rosa Parks. She was fired from her job and for years after that she receive death threats (that means that people threatened to harm her).

    In her struggle against segregation, Rosa Parks was not alone. She had the help of many people and organizations. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. offered and his organization offered her legal and financial help. Also, the NAACP, (the National Association of Colored People) which in its beginning years was foundered not only by African Americans, but by a large number of Jews as well helped Mrs. Parks, but in the end it was the black population that refused to takes the buses and stood up to the terrible segregation laws of not only Montgomery, Alabama, but the rest of the south and many also in many parts of the rest of our country.

    For many years, the Jewish people in our country have faced laws and customs of discrimination and we fought long and hard to defeat these laws and customs and to a large extent we have been successful, although anti-Semitism still exists in our country. This would have been the same case for the African Americans of our country, except their skin color sets them apart from some people in our country that are still living like it’s 125 years ago. It is my hope and prayer that as Dr. King, said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color or their skin, but by their content of their character.” We are still very far from that day, but we are inching towards that wonderful dream of his. I would truly love to see that day become a reality and we Jews have to have the courage to fight this great fight with our African American brothers and sisters to help them achieve this goal.

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