Clara was terrified. She silently scanned the room full of students in front of her, wondering what to say. She was only 16 years old; some of her students were older and much larger than herself. She couldn’t do this. She just couldn’t.
You see, Clara Barton was a terribly shy girl. When her parents tried to enroll her in a public school to help her make friends, she became depressed and refused to eat until her parents pulled her out. She said of her childhood:
“In the earliest years of my life, I remember nothing but fear.”
Eventually, her anti-social habits became so abnormally strong that her parents called in a doctor. He thought teaching school would help cure her. Her parents agreed and despite Clara’s desperate pleas, set her up to teach in a one room schoolhouse.
Their eyes looked expectantly up into hers. Where was her voice? She needed to pull herself together and say something!
“My name is Ms. Barton. I am your new teacher.”
Once Clara overcame her initial period of shyness, she began to shine in the classroom. She gained the respect of her rowdy older boys by joining their games during recess and beating them at their favorite sports. She won the hearts of all her students by refusing to whip them (the common method of discipline at that time).
Teaching helped Clara realize that she needed to leave her fear of people behind. She began to march through life, showing courage at every step. She started a school to give free education to children, helped forward the woman’s suffrage movement, founded the American Red Cross, and tended to wounded soldiers on battlefields around the world.
Clara stopped for a moment from where she had been tending a wounded soldier. Bullets and gunfire sounded all around her. She stared down at her patient and realized that the bullet that had just grazed her shirt sleeve was now lodged in the chest of the man she’d been trying to save.
Clara Barton had many close calls on the battlefield. She refused to listen to the many men who forbade her from helping out at the scene of action.
“I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.”
Could this be the same girl who was too scared to say hello to other children at public school? Yes. By forcing herself to overcome her fears, Clara was able to live a life dedicated to helping others. Next time you are too afraid to do something important, remember that, just like shy little Clara Barton, you too can train yourself to be strong enough to face any battlefield of life.
By: Susanna Olson
Courage is a powerful, yet abstract word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:
“Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
while the Oxford dictionary explains it as:
“The ability to do something that frightens one.”
I thought it would be interesting to look at courage as defined by some of history’s fearless heroes...
When he arrived, the men in charge tried to convince him to serve as a commander general. In this position he would remain safe from the harm of musket balls. Joseph Warren refused. He was a doctor, not a general. Despite his friend’s pleas, he insisted that a more experienced soldier be placed in charge. He would fight as an ordinary soldier.
...All night long she rode furiously through the countryside, sounding the alarm and rallying the men. A friendly man stopped her and asked if she would like him to accompany her on her dangerous mission. She refused, sending him the opposite direction so that he could help spread the word farther. All in all, Sybil road 40 miles, more than double the amount Paul Revere rode on his famous night ride. She did not weary. She did not give up...