By Jessica Titchener
The weighty black door swung open to reveal what was hiding behind this inconspicuous townhouse in Knightsbridge.
Red carpets. Suit jackets hanging, lined up neatly before the ornate white staircase. The walls held an ordered network of faces, in black and white.
I was out of place and very curious about my surroundings.
I carefully listened to stories of courage and leadership from two men who more than earned their membership of the Special Forces club, where we sat in the intimate meeting room with 12 strangers.
We discussed the values of strategic, moral and personal courage. I was engaged. I learnt how courage is not something you are born with; rather something stretched, developed and crafted through vulnerability.
Pondering the times I thought I had been most courageous, we walked around the halls of the club silently. The faces lined our path, up close this time. I stopped at each one.
A smiling face, man or woman. Each one a member of a Special Force, from WW2 to Afghanistan.
Then a stark summary of why they were here, looking right into my eyes.
Shot by the Germans on a sickbed, after being wounded in battle.
Died from malnutrition at a concentration camp, after being captured.
Tortured, beaten for information and then shot at a concentration camp.
There was a school boy and a grandmother. There was a doctor and a journalist.
It sounds like a skill that only those battle-ready and fully equipped and trained have. Or those born brave.
On the walls of the Special Forces club, and through the vulnerable stories from the decorated veterans, I saw something different. These men and women made a series of courageous decisions, choosing to take an unknown and difficult path. They were young and old, rich and poor. The only thing they possessed in common was an understanding that they always had a choice.
No enemy could take that away.
It is a powerful realisation – that you and I don’t have to default at difficult junctures. We have a choice, and even faced with the worst possible outcome, maybe it’s worth the vulnerability of walking a different way.
You might think you are not very courageous. But you will have taken the hard choice, the difficult path before.
Remember that time. What did you do well? And then decide again. Choose vulnerability.
Join the ranks of ordinary courage.
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