There are three kinds of courage: courage in the face of life’s challenges; courage in the face of violence, whether human or natural; and courage in the face of weakness, disability or death. Of all these kinds of courage, it is the last that gives us most honour – for we share the first two with animals, but the third we share with God.
One day I asked a friend how he could be so at ease with people with serious intellectual disabilities that he could cheerfully live among them for years, of his own volition. His response astonished me. “Since I was little,” he replied, “I was afraid of people with severe disabilities. So afraid that I would hide my eyes, even run away from them. And then one day I saw a man leaning, with perfect solicitude, toward an extremely disabled individual who could hardly speak. Far from being afraid, this kind man came closer to his new friend and knelt down by his wheelchair in order to hear him better. To me this was a revelation, and spoke of a beautiful courage that I too wanted to possess. Only later did I understand that courage wasn’t even needed, except to break the initial barrier.”