Where Bravery Comes From

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We are witnessing a tremendous amount of bravery in my hometown of Houston, Texas, right now. People are putting themselves in harms way to help people they don't know and may never see again. What is it that makes us brave during these trying times? It is a question that the military has researched.

After World War II, a researcher named Samuel Stouffer, Ph.D., dug into the question of why soldiers fought so hard under very tough conditions. The two most common responses to the question of why they continued to fight were 'so the war would be over sooner' and 'for those they were fighting along side.' Soldiers wanted to come home, yes; but it was their trust and connection with the other people in foxholes that kept them going.

In recent years, Leonard Wong, Ph.D., asked the same questions of soldiers coming back from Iraq — and the most popular answer was 'for my buddies'. The second most popular answer was 'a sense of purpose or patriotism'.

So, purpose and connection to those around us can give us the courage to stare down an AK-47, a hand grenade, or a river raging 20 feet above normal flow. What else can it give us the strength and courage to do? Would it give us the strength to make our local schools better? Would it give us the courage to address homelessness in an honest way? Would it allow us to be brave in assessing our cities' infrastructure so that we are more prepared?  There is no telling what is possible.

Times like this always bring the best out in people. When we find connection to each other and purpose in our actions, there is no limit to the amazing things we can do.