We are watching.
What would you do if you saw someone bullying someone else or someone hurting another person and that person was calling for help? There are three possibilities.
The first choice is to make no choice at all. Nothing changes. You have done nothing.
The second choice is to call for help. It is a safe, and reasonable and essential. It is not a choice at all, but should be the first thing we do. Call 911. Shout.
The third choice is dangerous. It means stepping in, facing an unpredictable situation. It means putting oneself in danger. It means making something change. It is being courageous.
George Lackey in his Waging Non-Violence article "Defense on the Streets - Walking into Conflict" witnessed a man beating a woman in the street where he lived. The first thing he did was call 911. But the man was still beating the woman. Lots of ideas for stopping the violence ran through Lackey's head. But he was afraid, and he wanted to stay safe. He feared the assailant might have a gun. He feared his race would inflame the situation - Lackey was white and the man was black. But he had to do something. So he stood on his porch and yelled. "I'm watching you." The couple stopped for a moment, looked at him, and then continued to tussle.
He stepped down onto the sidewalk and said again: "I'm still watching you." They stopped and looked at him a little longer. But now doors were opening; other people came out on their porches and down on the sidewalk. Power had shifted. He was no longer alone. Lackey walked closer to the couple. Just then an elderly woman walked over to the couple, took the girl's arm and walked her away saying to the young man "We don't treat our women that way."
Lackey didn't do much. He didn't dive into the situation. He admits he was afraid. But he did do something. He called for help, and then he stood as a witness. Lackey writes: "So that’s what it was about, I reflected: I was a placeholder, filling in until something happened that would really make the difference. My clumsy words and hesitant steps didn’t prevent me from doing my job, playing my part in the larger drama of the evening."
Lackey, a Quaker, tells us that there is no courage without fear. That when there is trouble we need to move toward it, even if we only take halting baby steps.
Melanie Greenberg names six attributes of courage .
We all have the potential to be courageous. But Lackey realizes that for us ordinary people, acting courageously in many situations is no easy thing. Fear is a powerful emotion that can freeze us in our tracks. To overcome fear we need to uncover the passion for justice within ourselves and nurse it into being. We need to take baby steps toward action. Lackey makes the following suggestion for growing our courage. He writes...
"The choices we make in daily life offer a convenient training ground. My rule is: When I become aware of conflict, I move toward it. My flexible application of that rule has to do with how far and fast I move. On a good day I can move very fast and get right in the middle of it. I once stood in front of someone holding a gun on someone else. On a bad day, moving an inch in the direction of the conflict is my big achievement. The power comes from making that choice, over and over. Instead of backing away from that loud argument in the subway or the bar, move toward it even a foot or two. When I do that, I pay attention not only to the environment but also to how I’m doing. No one has died from sweaty palms. The sweat deserves my willing placement of attention. Bit by bit, I learn to breathe, and the risk of panic subsides to mere fear."
Have you ever done something courageous?