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COURAGE:  It’ not the absence of fear, but overcoming it.

“In lighting the candle of COURAGE, we are reminded of another outstanding trait in our sportsmanship award winner.  COURAGE does not consist of feeling no fear, but of conquering fear.  By conquering doubt and fear, she has conquered failure.  Every thought is strengthened with hope; all difficulties are bravely met.  It is the girl who smiles through the tears of adversity that truly exemplifies COURAGE.”

One day I was rocking away on Jane’s porch. Taking in the scenery and looking for a moment to contribute and boost my credits for Life Skills. Jane had us go around and share what we wanted to do when we were older. I remember, age 14, thinking that all I wanted to say was “to be a dancer,” but feeling too scared to admit that and be thought of as foolish. So when my turn came, I said something else.

But as we continued around, I remember my friend Peyton saying she wanted to be a model. And Jane smiled, telling her she would put her in contact with some of her friends who could help. I remember feeling crushed as I realized I had been a coward to try to fit in or seem reasonable. That moment sticks out to me because Peyton showed me what courage was: vulnerability and honesty.  

Capturing Courage

One of my favorite lines from Memorial Vespers is “smile through the tears of adversity.” I believe it perfectly captures what it means to be courageous. In life we all face hardship. From fear of the river, to struggle with self-identity, each and every one of us faces something big to us. If we always let those fears control us, well we’d be trapped. Courage is not the absence of fear, but overcoming it. It’s taking that leap off the blob. It’s admitting you’re struggling and asking for help. Courage takes acknowledgement of the struggle before defeating it. 

We are all our own Harry Potter’s. Facing our Voldemort’s will be different, but just as real and frightening. Just by waking up every morning, we show courage. If I wish I could tell that version of me, rocking away on Jane’s porch, anything, it would be that you’ll always regret the things you never said more than the things you did. Be courageous just by being yourself.


Rachel Pannell

About the Author

Rachel Pannell

Rachel is a rare fourth generation Heart girl. Her great-grandmother was the nurse for our first summer as Heart O’ the Hills Camp, and her grandmother and great aunt were campers, as were her mother and aunt. This fall she will be at UTSA as a marketing major. Rachel is a Jo Jones girl.


  1. Simply awesome, Rachel! Thank you. This is the Trait I had to memorize for Memorial Vespers in 1969! It might have changed a little bit, but the essence is the same: Courage consists not of feeling no fear, but of conquering fear. Thanks again, Rachel and Jane!

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