Courage Can Change Us

Dhruvika ParikhJuly 5, 2023CourageHelping Hands

Artwork by Iryna Tsisaruk, age 14

Whenever we hear the word courage, the first thing that comes to mind are the martyrs who gave up their lives for their countries, or the soldiers fighting at the border.

But have we truly paused and reflected to ask ourselves: what does courage mean outside of this definition? Courage doesn’t need to mean speaking against someone or facing your fears, rather, courage can be as simple as owning up to yourself and learning how to problem-solve in a difficult situation.

Courage is something that everyone has access to, but very few utilize it to its optimum potential. It helps you realize the abilities you possess, and helps you step out of your comfort zone. I realized this quite recently.

My first experience with inspirational courage was a profound journey. In The Riverside School, where I learn about the world and myself, Grade Six got a Client Project that would help us learn field skills and professionalism. Our class was fortunate to have our Client Project alongside the Citizenship Program with the Prabhat Education Foundation, which is an NGO with the vision to have all children and adults with disabilities lead a dignified life in society.

With the need for more inclusivity in mind, our grade partnered up with Prabhat to enhance our perspective. We hosted the founder of Prabhat at our school and asked questions about the center. The founder spoke about the pre-vocational skills they teach that are required to get a job that provides food, shelter, protection and happiness for families. At the time, their main focus was to teach the Prabhat youth how to cook and serve at a café or restaurant.

The first thought that came to our minds was: how can we add to this legacy already created by the Prabhat youth? The client shared his needs with us and we became excited to lend a hand to this cause. We thought that we would be the change makers, without realizing how it would change us.

Before designing a café for our Prahat youth buddies, we wanted to interact so we could understand how it felt to be in their shoes, which would broaden our chances of elevating one another.

Our first interaction was not easy, and was rather awkward. Neither group wanted to break the ice first, and all of us were quite taken aback by the sudden meeting. Even though some said they were okay, most of us felt quite uncomfortable.

When it was time to go home, we did a reflection on our first interaction, and a lot of us didn’t say our honest thoughts. We concluded that to understand their perspective we would need to step into their shoes to have an experience where we could understand and empathize with their various special needs.

Our Client Project took seven months to complete, and we learned a lot in the process. To culminate this program, we wanted to involve our parents to engage with our buddies. We invited them to join in several activities planned for the parents and buddies. Observing our parents as they got to know the buddies reminded us of ourselves in our first interaction—nervous, scared, clueless, and frozen.

It was my duty to energize the two parties. Since it was the festival of Holi, we enjoyed smearing colors on everyone, and we were able to close our year with this special memory. Words are too limited to describe the feeling and ambience of this moment. It was something to be treasured in our box of memories forever. The joy we felt with each other was more important than all the other emotions and thoughts we had. There was no fatigue, sadness, or melancholy, just epiphany and the euphoria of togetherness.

But how is this courage? Isn’t the dictionary definition of courage the ability to control fear in a situation that may be dangerous, or is it about stepping out of your comfort zone?

The four types of courage are: intellectual, moral, disciplined and empathetic. So the fact that our buddies, parents, and teachers did things out of their comfort zone to support us and push us was courageous. More than that, the courage that our Prabhat buddies show on a daily basis to fight against society and make names for themselves is a struggle. But their courage is a never-ending waterfall and we got a spring of courage from them.

My favorite quote about courage is by Ryan Holiday: “Courage calls each of us differently, at different times, in different forms. But in every case it is, as they say, coming from inside the house.” So let life throw its obstacles and flow its way, just continue sailing through it on your boat of courage.

Dhruvika Parikh is a 12-year-old from Ahmedabad, India. Dhruvika is interested in coding, dancing, history, geography, science, crafts, and acquiring new skills.