Courage: An Unlikely Example

~An 8th grade essay by: Ellen C.~

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the facing of it in the strength given us. These days, courage is made to seem like an extraordinary thing, and at times those who act in it are exalted to legend-like positions. However, courage is not found onlcouragey in the heroes of fairy tales and folklore or in the lives of men and women long gone or in the martyrs for the Faith. Courage can be found in those you see around you who seem ordinary, and, by His grace, in those whom you would never have imagined admiring (like me, for instance, but that comes later).

A prime example of this courage is the story of a girl I am familiar with, named Ellen, who is thirteen years of age. In other words, I am she and she is I. Now, when I got the letter about the essay contest, my hands grew clammy with excitement —and dread. When I saw the 8th graders were placed with those in the 9th, I cowered in my very desk chair. The options they gave us were difficult, and the choices were limited, in a rather non-American fashion. How could I choose?  And yet, when Mum told me she thought it would be a good idea for all of us to enter, I knew she was right. After all, we must honor our parents.  So, I set my jaw and took up my pen. Well, sort of. By the time I really grasped the biting ridges of my  #2 pencil, we had received the ominous one-week and then, two-day warnings. The dread almost kept me up at night. However, I knew that, at least, I had the Dictionary, and that had to be enough.


I had tried various coping methods already. When the method of denial gave out (for about three weeks it had held me steady) the practice of procrastination just would not cut it. Two days before my approaching doom, I had to face, in courage, my destiny. Despite my fears (those ninth graders loomed menacingly) a day before I was to turn it in I sat down to write my essay. Suppressing my worries (would my last-minute effort be all right? I was obedient in the face of near paralyzing fear and the ever-real danger of the great and terrible ninth grade.

A few hours later, I almost gave up. Nothing would come. My brain was fried, and the skillet was unusually oily but that did not help the words come rolling out. I came close to panicking, but after a brief respite and some chocolate for sustenance, I stiffened my sinews and went at it again. That was true courage coupled with perseverance. Though faced with failure, shame, and the ninth grade, I tried again. Despite the overwhelming odds, I had my Dictionary, and in faith, I left my comfort zone and went out into the fray. It is up to you to tell if I was victorious.

What you have before you now was conceived in fear and carried in dread, but birthed in strong courage, the result of obedience. I hope you now see that, even though I am young, through the Merriam Webster I shall do valiantly. Dear reader, do not say this is a prideful essay, for indeed I know that without my Dictionary I could not have done it. But I did act in courage, and though the ninth graders still scare me, I no longer cower before them. For “Some trust in the American Collegiate, and some in Collier’s, but I trust in the Merriam Webster. They are brought down to Honorable Mentions, but I [hope to] rise up to 1st  place and stand firm.”


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