Many of us are not OK with the way certain things are in the world, and lots of people take actions daily to make a difference and show kindness to others. There are some people who go to great lengths, even risking their own safety and lives to help others. Harriet Tubman was one of these people. Born into slavery, the very year of her birth is unsure, Harriet escaped slavery in 1849 and them remarkably went back 13 times to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including her own friends and family. Harriet used a network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She went on to serve as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army during the American Civil war fighting for freedom for all enslaved people. Known by the nickname Moses, she “never lost a passenger”. Not only did Tubman help free slaves, but she also helped them resettle in Canada and find work.
This larger-than-life woman was a cook, nurse, scout, spy, and the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, leading a raid that freed more than 700 slaves. Throughout her life as a slave Harriet was often sickly as a child and was severely injured as a teenager the effects of which impacted her for her whole life. Deeply religious, Tubman was passionate about her faith. Although she never learned to read, her mother told her bible stories and she attended church with her family. I can only imagine that her personal experiences of being enslaved and her guidance from tales of deliverance in the Old Testament shaped the actions she took throughout her life.
To not only escape from slavery herself, and to go back 13 times shows how courageous and brave Harriet was. Frederick Douglass an abolitionist, former slave, and owner of a safe house on the Underground Railway said of Tubman: “Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every stop of the way. You, on the other hand have been laboured in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night…. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to the freedom and of your heroism.”
It’s clear how Harriet Tubman was heroic and brave, beyond most, and perhaps not so clear how her actions demonstrated kindness. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Some people might think being kind is being naïve or weak, especially when being generous or considerate of others puts you in harm’s way. You can imagine how people might have thought her even foolish given the incredible risks Harriet took to save others. I have no idea exactly what Harriet was thinking as she made plans to leave for her first trip back to Maryland. I can only imagine that after experiencing freedom for herself, and knowing the perils of enslavement, she was simply not OK with not doing everything she could to free others.
When we think of the greatest leaders of the past each of them had something, they just weren’t OK with. Whether it was Ghandi, and the British rule of India, Martin Luther King Jr. and the lack of civil rights for African Americans in the United States, or Nelson Mandela and Apartheid policies in South Africa, each of these human beings and so many more were unwilling to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. When you look out into the world what are you not OK with? Perhaps it’s when your friends are bullied, or when you see people being treated unequally. Maybe you wish everyone in the world had a roof over their head or enough food to eat. Whatever the issue, either it’s a global issue or something closer to home in your community or school, you could choose to take a stand that things change. You could be kind, courageous and brave like Harriet Tubman and who knows the kind of difference you can make for others?
Written by: Amber Howard