I’ve always envied skydivers.
I don’t necessarily envy the 130-mile-per-hour fall from 14,000 feet.
“I never understood why anyone would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane,” my dad, a pilot for 30 years, liked to say.
I can’t say that I do either, but I envy the chutzpah it must take to step out that door, leaving the nice, firm footing of the plane to tumble toward Earth.
I spoke with a cousin recently about his skydiving obsession – he’s logged more than 2,000 jumps – and I asked him how he did it.
“I thought fear of heights ran in the family,” I said.
I got vertigo just from seats in the nosebleed section at a concert recently.
He told me his fear of heights led him skydiving.
I understood immediately.
For half-a-minute, several years ago, I considered skydiving to overcome my fear of heights. I figured if I just took the plunge one time, I’d see it wasn’t that bad.
According to my cousin, the fear doesn’t actually go away.
“Anyone that jumps and says they have no fear is a liar,” said my cousin. “Let’s just say it is an uneasiness; it is not normal to look down from 14,000 feet with the door open.”
He explained that it’s a matter of managing the fear.
Therein lies the lesson to be learned from skydivers.
I realized after speaking with my cousin that courage, defined as “the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, pain, etc.,” comes in many forms.
We see it every time a firefighter battles a blaze, a police officer faces down a gunman or a soldier steps on that military transport heading to the war zone.
But not everyone can become a police officer, firefighter or soldier.
I would wager, though, that anyone could look around – or even take a look at himself or herself – and see courage in its truest form.
The woman alongside you at a stoplight may be terrified of driving, but she does it anyway. The little boy walking into the doctor’s office for a vaccination may be petrified of needles, but he’s biting his lip and going in without a fuss.
The teenage girl just diagnosed with cancer knows the treatment will be painful, but she does it anyway.
A teenage boy comes out as gay, knowing he will face scorn and ridicule.
Not all courageous acts are death-defying.
Again, courage comes in many forms.
Including jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet.
And I must say, my cousin inspired me to be more courageous – but I’ll probably skip the free fall.