Have you ever heard a more inspiring story, or a more chilling one, than the heroic life Malala Yousafzai is leading?
Imagine the courage of this young woman. Still a girl, really. A Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban last year because she would not back down from campaigning for education for girls. Now just 16, she was only 12 when she began her campaign.
Just the thought takes our breath away. We both fear for her and are uplifted by her.
Against a standard like that, it is hard for most of us to measure up, but that inspiration helps us all get a little closer to her example.
Courage, after all, comes in many forms and on many scales.
Frankly, if we look, we see it all around us.
Remember the Newtown tragedy? Remember the way the teachers and staff protected the children as if they were their own? The poignant tales of educators who gave up their lives for their students?
We get glimpses of courage when a soldier from Rolling Meadows loses his legs but not his spirit. When Rob Komosa uses the tragic accident that cost him his mobility and ultimately his life to fight for the disabled. When Ron Santo acts as though nothing is wrong though faced with a deadly combination of diabetes and cancer.
Everywhere, we get glimpses.
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it," Nelson Mandela observed. "The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear."
It is not just in the big things, the extreme examples. It's in the small ones too, the little tests that confront all of us as we live our lives.
Courage is, if we look, all around us.
It is in the firefighters who race into burning buildings. And in the patrol officers who pull motorists over on deserted roads to point out broken taillights.
It is in a high school student who says no to drugs or alcohol. And in a parent who says yes to a teenager who asks for the car keys.
It is in a laid-off worker who forces himself out of bed each day to carry on. It is in an entrepreneur who risks her security to start a business.
Courage is in immigrants who come to a strange land to build new lives. And in patriots who go off to strange lands to defend the nation in battle.
It is in everyone who attempts to speak the truth, even when the truth is unpopular or inconvenient or hard.
It is in all who take a risk to do what is right.
Today, let us celebrate the inspiration of Malala Yousafzai, an undaunted young girl who refuses still to back away.
Let us celebrate also the courage in our lives.