"Lessons From A Six Year Old About Being Brave" by Dr. Jasmine Marcelin

On the eve of my 6th Mother’s Day, I had the honor and pleasure of watching my first-born son (and Marcelin Karate Kid) test in martial arts to advance from his yellow belt to his orange belt.  We’ve been here before when we tested from white to yellow belt, but the nerves seemed more crippling this time.  

The night before his test while getting ready for bed, my son looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “Mommy, I’m nervous about testing tomorrow”. So instead of reading, we lay on the bed and talked about ways to be brave.  

I have struggled to channel bravery with my work-life continuum. Burned out and exhausted, I have struggled to be brave about reclaiming my time for my children.  Lacking bravery, I have imprisoned my creative writing and diversity advocacy. Yet here, in the quiet moment, was my six year old looking to me for courage and bravery.  

I looked back into his eyes and remembered Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This verse was my mantra throughout undergraduate and medical school, but I had lost it in recent years.  As I taught my son this verse I felt a peace flow through me, almost eliminating the stress I had been feeling over the past month. 

Louder and louder, we kept repeating it. 

After a few moments, I asked him how he felt. His response: “I feel better”. 

I did too.

The next morning as we prepared for the test, we practiced our super hero stances and shouted at the tops of our lungs “I can do it!” Then we rocked out in my car to a song titled “I’m still standing”. My son modified the verse to “I can do anything through Christ who gives me courage”. He looked at me with bright eyes as he said it and I knew he believed every word.  

When my son’s name was called, he leapt to his mark with a low, reverent bow. He took a deep breath. Then his eyes narrowed with concentration as he assumed his “ready stance”.  As I recorded his performance, I could feel my heart surging. I was nervous for my son, yet he was unconcerned. He channeled his inner Jackie Chan with kicks higher than he had ever practiced, giving his all.  He was in the zone, with determination on his face as the epitome of bravery.

Watching my son renewed a fire within me so strong I knew I had to write about it. 

I am not brave because of any one thing I do. I am brave because my son wills me to be. 

A week later, nervous again because of the coming award/belt rank banquet, we revisited our bravery/courage verse while power posing.  The scared boy was gone, replaced with one who was confident and brave. “I’m not nervous, I’m excited!” he said on the day of the banquet. It turns out we had nothing to worry about –he worked hard for that orange belt and earned an A for his performance. I was so proud of him. 

Reflecting on his bravery, I thought back to all of the opportunities I missed because I was not brave.  No more. In that moment, I vowed to be brave very day, starting with publishing this piece. 

Be brave, dear friends. You may find, as challenges present, you will move from nervousness to excitement, and from bravery to achievement.


Jasmine Marcelin, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Associate Medical Director of Antimicrobial Stewardship at University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE. A native of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Dr. Marcelin recently moved to Omaha after completing residency and fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  Dr. Marcelin co-directs the social media initiatives of the UNMC ID Division. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in medicine and the value of social media in academic medicine. Follow her on twitter @DrJRMarcelin.