I was facing a snarling dog who barked ferociously at me. It was exceptionally evil-looking with black fur and red eyes.
Having nothing to fight it off with, I grabbed a pillow and whopped it. The dog's head wobbled rapidly. When it stopped, I saw that two heads had emerged. Stunned and horrified, I struck it again. This time three heads appeared. Overwhelmed and terrified, I woke up.
It takes courage to fight a three-headed dog. Thank goodness they only appear in my dreams. I like to fancy myself bold and courageous, and sometimes I am. Other times I sit back and watch others move forward. Sometimes I run in fear.
Through the years I have admired those around me who have chosen to be bold and brave. It takes a person with a stout heart to stand for what they believe in when they are outnumbered or even alone. These aren't just the heroes of folklore and history books, either. They are leaders in their own unique circles, sometimes unknown to those outside. They may even be unpopular in some way, or vulnerable, or with limited resources - individuals regular society has little patience with or seldom notices.
"Anyone willing to know their own heart and spirit can follow their own courage," states Sandra Ford Walston, a speaker and author dubbed "The Courage Expert."
Walston, who lectures and writes about everyday courage in the workplace, says an organization's success is directly linked to how courageous its employees are. Acting courageous is not enough - one must learn to be courageous. It must become part of how that person thinks, how they approach the world.
In my own family I have noticed bravery. My nephew Marvin is an example. I've watched him reach beyond himself to be hospitable and friendly to a visitors in his home when I know how shy he actually is. I marvel at his courage.
My niece Hannah rode a plane all by herself once to see her father. She wasn't older than 10 at the time. I asked her if she were afraid. "Yes," she said simply. But she got on the plane anyway.
I admire others who have done radical things because they believed it was the right thing to do. These are mothers who have taken great risks for their children, fathers who have chosen family over personal interests. I have watched foster children hold onto the few dollars they have just to give them to a sibling at a family visit. And I've been inspired by spiritual leaders who forsake celebrity and image to put their money where their mouths are.
Courage under fire is costly. Social scrutiny is painful. Criticism hurts. Rejection wounds. Who needs it? No one, really. But a few push through those challenges to do and say things they believe are necessary for good to occur.
These leaders are the unique ones. They forge ahead and create paths the rest of us follow. They are the ones who have decided that they will stand even when they're knees are knocking, even if it means they have to do it alone.
Today I just want to say thank you to all these courageous men, women and children who have been bold enough to stand up, speak out, take charge, and change something where they can. You know who you are. Bravo.
Tabi Upton is a counselor, speaker and writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.