Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Courage. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

The thirtieth anniversary today of the Soweto massacre is a reminder of the pain the black population of that country experienced to recover freedom. That event was a turning point. Eighteen years later, black South Africans queued in blazing heat to exercise for the first time their right to vote. The democratic freedom had been won at great cost over many years and the black voters, even if they had not been physically disabled by apartheid violence, bore the inner wounds of oppression and of the struggle.

Struggle for freedom is painful. This is also true in our individual lives. It may be circumstances that confine us but, at least as often, it is our own emotional make-up that makes us feel unable to do or say what we would like. Our fear of being disliked or thought ill of, for example, can inhibit us. Our acceptance of other peopleís expectations can limit our horizons. Past experience of being thought incompetent can be a drain on our confidence. Dealing with these inner hang-ups demands courage and the willingness to risk getting hurt as we experiment with being different, freer people.

The fight against apartheid was of a completely different order to our individual attempts to free ourselves from the shackles which restrain us. Today particularly we remember the continuing struggle in that country to create a just and peaceful society. But perhaps there is inspiration to persevere in our own struggle from the remembrance of the determination and courage with which the black people of South Africa pursued their freedom in the face of apparently invincible military and political power.

A grizzle cock pigeon, known to the Air Ministry by the codename NPS.42.31066, will be honoured in a special London exhibition at the Imperial War Museum's 60th anniversary show. More intimately known as Gustav, this was the pigeon that delivered the first news of Allied success from the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944. During his mission, Gustav was reportedly buffeted by a headwind of up to 30 miles per hour and his view of the sun - his primary means of navigation - was obscured by heavy cloud. But the plucky feathered warrior persisted and delivered the good news from the beaches to waiting military chiefs back in England.

Gustav's feat earned him the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Sadly, Gustav found peacetime more perilous and met an end when his breeder stepped on him while mucking out his loft.

Courage is an admirable quality and one any of us might need at any time. From going to the defence of someone in danger to standing ground against criticism of one of our actions or beliefs, we never know when bravery might be called for. The crises and struggles of every day life often demand the courage just to keep going. Jesus, in the last week of his life, needed constant reserves of courage when his ideals were challenged, his friends uncertain of him and his physical well-being threatened.

As the manner of Gustavís death suggests, courageous actions bring no guarantee of security. Faint-heartedness often seems a safer bet than fearlessness. But there are times when courage and nothing less is called for. Jesusí bravery took him to the cross. Letís hope that if guts are whatís needed from us today, we wonít falter.

On April 1st 1979 David Kirke, founder of the Oxford Dangerous Sports Club, threw himself off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol in the first Bungee jump. Since then has come snowboarding, windsurfing, paragliding, skydiving and so on. A recent popular one is kitesurfing, surfing with a kite attached. But itís Bungee jumping which symbolises the daring, risky element in these new and increasingly popular sports.

Fortunately for the lily-livered among us, casting ourselves into space, trusting only to a piece of plastic, is not a feature of everyday life. But its emotional equivalent could be a possibility that challenges us today. A choice might confront us. We might sense an intuitive attraction to a particular course of action. A new direction for our lives thatís been niggling away at our consciousness might rear its head again. In these or other ways, the feeling that we should cast ourselves into the unknown, with what seems like inadequate security, grows in us until we either have to admit we are cowards or take the leap.

A Bungee jumper calculates the risks and makes sure they are confident in the support structure they are being offered. In the end though, there has to be that decision to do it. As we think about our lives and our futures, rational assessment is important. But it would be sad if opportunities for greater excitement and adventure in our lives were missed just because we didnít dare take the plunge.