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Essay: "Courage"

by John Corteno
Courage is defined as the ability to conquer fear or despair: bravery, valor!

Before I talk about what courage means to me and how I learned to be of good courage, I have to share who I was and who I am now!

Growing up I had fears and I didn't know how to overcome them on my own. I sought escape from them through all kinds of things. I considered myself an escape artistâ€" I used drugs, drink, women, money and crime to escape my fears.

My main fear in life has been failingâ€"not making something of myself and not have my family be proud of me! Living a life with no purpose or meaning is failing to me! Well I was so caught up in foolishness that I landed myself in prison with 3 35 year sentences. Early on in the beginning of my time I tried to living up to my nicknameâ€"OSOâ€" means bear in English and I tried to be fearless in a place that breeds hate and violence. Whether it came from inmates or officers I tried to be courageous in own foolish way. Yet in 2003 I met true courage in the form of a man who lived to die in my place! Let me explain. In 2003 I attended a Kairos Walk #15 to be exact and it is a 4 day walk in which free world men and woman who are Christians from different denominations come together as a body and bring the love of God to some convicts! To some dudes who are labeled murderers, rapists, child molesters, thugs, dope dealers, car jackers and hustlers who run game on anybody and everybody. I met some decent people who in their love for Christ were strong and of good courage and came into the prisons just to show love to us thrown off hard heads and believe me when I came I was a self-seeking scandalous thug. It was all about me, but God did something through those loving and kind people. He touched me to my soul with His love and get this. Theyâ€"these Christiansâ€" were acting on the courage and strength of another. I couldn't understand it then but I do now, for I follow the one who was the most courageous man I ever heard of!

I accepted the sacrifice he made for me and in this prison I try to live up to the example he set! Do you remember I said earlier I used to be called OSO? Well I was in a gang. It took courage for one such as I who has a reputation for being a hard knocker, a thug who was brown-n-proud to act a fool and clown around. It took courage to leave what I knew all my life, to live a new one for my Jesus. I cried in a day room, (on medium custody) full of some hard heads, cold blooded convicts, when I told my homeboys I was going to try and live for God. I knew what to expect, my first test of faithâ€"to get out of my gang life I had to get blessed outâ€"what are nice words for beat down out the gang! I knew I couldn't fight back the way the world would and I knew most tests would come based on how I acted. Many would say OSO done laid it down, done gone soft, done lost heart. I would say nope, I found a real and true heartâ€"Jesus. Funny thing is that. Not too long after I left my old gang and they didn't do anything, they wanted to see if my actions would prove my words true. They eventually started calling me care bear all because I started giving homie hugs to my homeboys and other thuggish type dudes.

God's love caused me to be of good courage and show love in a place where that's a rare thing. Talk about courageâ€"I learned what perfect love means to cast out all fear. I had to surrender to God's will in my life and trust Himâ€"that's what has helped me to be strong and of good courage! I write this to offer a different way to those who are trapped in this system's program. My fellow inmates who are in general population and Ad Segâ€"you don't have to follow the norm in prison and be ruled on by fear, where it dictates your every way of life! I would encourage you to seek out what is real and true courageâ€"how God defines it.

This courage has helped me to be a positive in a negative environment and even though my family can't see me now and don't know my now, there are many here in my unit who do and theyâ€"my family in Christâ€" are proud of me. I have found meaning and purpose in God's will! I hope you will too and may God bless you to be strong and of good courage!