Courage has a name...

2013-06-18 16:41

I was watching the Blind Side the other day and the is a scene where Micheal (the lead) has to write an essay in order for him to stand a chance to pass his grade. He chooses the topic courage after his adoptive father tells him a 300-esque story to help him understand what the assignment is all about.

There are over 6 billion people on earth and I am sure each and everyone of them has their own description of what courage is. It could be facing your fear of heights, swimming, standing up for what you believe in, taking a risk or as Michael Oher said “If you die trying for something important, then you have both honor and courage, and that's pretty good.”

Now I regard myself as a pretty courageous dude (I still need to conquer my fear of grasshoppers) who never allows fear to dictate what direction my life should take. It was only a few weeks ago my eyes were opened to the definition of real courage.

Two weeks ago I along with 2 friends and four strangers (now friends) decided to hike South Africa's most famous mountain and the world's 7th wonder of the world like most tourists and locals do. The decision to climb the mountain was because ZZ N (his initials as i didn't get his permission to write about him) asked us to accompany him as he that woud be his first time hiking the famous mountain.

Unlike most of us he is not climbing the mountain out of fun, to pass time or for simply say one day "I did it." Rather he is doing it because he has to practise mountain climbing to prepare for when he attempts to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro next year as part of a team aimed at climbing Africa's highest peak to raise awareness for people with disabilities.

A few years back ZZ N whom I' ve known since high school was involved in a traumatic car accident that left him without his left leg. This is a guy who was a sports lover and played rugby so well I was jealous of him. He had the makings of a perfect forward when it came to the sport. He had height, the body weight, the bravery and the passion not to mention the possibility of crushing his opponent when ever he got on to the field.

Now I cannot imagine how it felt for someone as athletic as he was to wake up with a prosthetic limb.What goes through your mind, the physical and pyschological challenges that you have to get used to. The drastic change that you must get used to. But instead of moping around, he got up, did physical therapy, accepted the changes in his life and continued with his studies until he graduated earlier this year.

Now he is preparing to climb one of the highest mountains in the world all in the name of charity. When we were climbing the mountain the other day, his persistence was inspiring. Yes he struggled like the rest of us to complete the three hour climb but I have never seen a more determined person to complete a task than he was that day.

Those who have hiked the mountain know that it's a steep rocky road to climb that's both exhausting and daunting at the same time. ZZ N struggled but he persisted to the top with the climb because he was determined to finish what he started. Other hikers along the way whether they were going up or down stopped congratulated him, told him he was a true inspiration (and sometimes lied that we were almost there even though 30 minutes had not even elapsed since we started).

The was this one moment when this young boy about who was about 3 or 4 walking with his dad came behind ZZ N, stood and watched for a minute and then held his hand out to shake ZZ N hand. That reaffirmed to me that when people truly recognise something courageous they will applaud it. The were moments when I felt that he was struggling, thought that he woudn't make it and even suggested a couple of times we can turn back if he was "too" tired to continue.

It is then that I realised I was doing my friend a diservice, that instead of supporting him through this I was sowing doubt in his head. That while strangers and passers by's were encouraging, I was the opposite because I felt I did not want him to over do it.That even though he didn't see his prostetic limb as a hinderance, I did.

That in a moment that he saw his prosthetic leg as something that will not stop him from achieving his goal, I saw it as an obstacle that he might not overcome.

Though it was gruelling, tiring and hard all 6 of us finally made it to the summit of Table Mountain 3 hours later.

It was on this day I was reminded of what it means to chase your dreams no matter what obstacles lay ahead. ZZ N was a reminder that nothing is impossible if you willing to put in the work, be patient and tell yourself that failing while trying is not the same as giving up.

I guess what I am trying to say is that courage is in us all. All we have to do is believe in ourselves, identify our goals and work our asses off to achieve them. If the is one thing I learnt from that day is that doubt can hamper us from conquering the world. Or in this case Mount Kilimanjaro...

You can catch me on Twitter @BongaDlulane.

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