Last night before going to bed I popped a movie into my DVD player, intending to watch something and knit and relax. I pulled a favorite off the shelves which I haven't seen lately, "How to Train Your Dragon." It's a great story told in brilliant animation, and I recommend it vigorously.
I don't want to give away much of the story, but the hero is a kid named Hiccup who forms a friendship with a unique, intelligent dragon. There's one moment which stopped me in my tracks, because all at once it reminded me what bravery really looks like.
Hiccup has been slowly forming a rapport with the dragon, but trust is slow to come -- with reason, as Hiccup's people have been killing dragons as far back as anyone remembers. He finally gets this close, but the dragon is wary of letting Hiccup touch him ... so Hiccup turns away, stretches out his hand, and lets the dragon choose.
This is a creature which could kill Hiccup in a second, and he knows it. He could lose that hand as easily as winking. But he has reason to think he might not. He has been watching this creature and starting to understand it; he doesn't believe this is a vicious, unreasoning killer. So he takes the chance. He's scared stiff, he would never in a million years call himself "brave," but he still takes the chance.
If you have seen the movie, you know how this risk pans out; if you have not, then you'll have to watch and see for yourself. Today I'm still thinking about Hiccup's example of what true bravery looks like -- not great feats of derring-do, but being scared stiff and still listening to belief, still taking a chance.