Courage, mostly the quiet kind.


I’ve always been interested in courage: how it exists or doesn’t, in individuals, religions, institutions, and societies.

By fifth grade, my family had moved three times for church work before we settled in a college town—it was my fourth school. Everyone was ready to be my friend, but I was pretty confused about how to be genuine. At least I enjoyed reading, so I read Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry. The young Mafatu’s journey gave me hope. He dug deep, found the courage to survive, and gained confidence. Oh, how I wanted that.

Courage had to come first, though, and not the splashy kind: the listening, helping, working and thinking kind, based on the realities of homework, walking to school with other girls, fighting and making up, and boyfriends. We all knew who in class already had that sort of courage, confidence, and kindness. Sometimes I was happy for them, other times as jealous as Snow White’s stepmom, and I indulged in ‘ungenerous thoughts!’ Thank goodness for all those wonderful kids who gave me, and each other, a chance.

My siblings and I are the children of a Mennonite and a non-Mennonite. My mother was the Mennonite and my father a Long Islander. After WW II, Dad decided to follow Anabaptist ways when he joined a conversation group with men of faith: conscientious objectors and men who had served as combatants or noncombatants in the military. The men didn't judge each other; they wanted to find truth and a way forward after the war.

Although Mennonite ethnicity certainly no longer matters as much as it did, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s as a half-Mennonite could be a little strange, and sometimes I didn’t handle it with grace. As uncomfortable as it could be, though, I’ve come to cherish my mixed heritage. It gave me a chance to look at my culture from both inside and out. It taught me that people sincerely see things from different perspectives.

As someone who likes to write fiction, I now find this lesson helpful when creating characters who inhabit the same space.

About Greta Holt

I belong to two writers’ groups, many of whose members are associated with the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. I’m an associate member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and until recently, I reviewed books for I've received support from the Ohio Arts Council. My Botswana stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies, including  (Surviving, 2013, Vol. 5, No. 2,) and the Southern Indiana Review, and What Mennonites are Thinking. You can access two of these stories by clicking on the websites above.

Happiness for me: singing and playing piano, being a member of my church, attending Mennonite Arts Weekend every other year in February (,) discussing life and other things with my husband, and running after the cat to try to pet her.

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