I was driving home on a rainy afternoon with my kids – then ages five and three – when I heard Jacob’s quiet voice: “Joey kicks me at school. Most of the time it doesn’t matter but sometimes it hurts.” Those words struck me hard. Someone was hurting my baby boy at school? I wanted to hold my boy, and yet at the same time, I felt this surprising urge to hurt that bully. I had to concentrate on my driving to stay safe on the road, so I just asked Jacob to tell me more.
The next day, I was in Jacob’s kindergarten classroom with his teacher who wasn’t surprised to hear his experience. She took Jacob into the main hallway, which was empty at the time, and she got down to his eye level. She spoke to him in French – it was a French public school – and she told him that if that boy ever did anything to hurt him, he was to look him in the eyes and tell him, “Je n’aime pas ca.” She had him repeat that phrase. Then she told him that he needed to say it loud enough to get an adult’s attention. She had him say those words boldly – Je n’aime pas ca – and then repeat them even louder. In front of my eyes, I could almost see his courage rising as he yelled into the trusting eyes of his teacher.
This morning, as I watched the 9/11 Memorial, I thought a lot about courage – the courage of that day and the days following. Where did those first responders get their courage? Where did the family members of those who lost loved ones that day find the courage to carry on?
Eventually we all have to summon the courage that I believe is within each of us. I am thankful that Jacob’s kindergarten teacher could help him to discover it in himself, and I hope that he uses it wisely whenever he needs it. Mostly, I am thankful that as we remember the tragic events of September 11, we can be moved by the courage of many.