Stories that Stick – A Word About Courage

Some stories just stay with you. It might be a moment in your life when you got a glimpse of something a little bit bigger than you. A poem or a lyric that struck a chord. A picture that stirred your soul. Or a conversation that changed the way you looked at the world.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about a conversation like that I had many years ago with a man called Charles Eade. At the time I was in my late teens and Charles was retired, and an elder at our church. He was one of those people where the age gap didn’t matter in the slightest. He’d always smile as if he were really pleased to see you, and he always had something interesting and uplifting to say. (You can tell I had a real soft spot for him).

But the conversation I remember best was about an All Black called Michael Jones. For those who don’t hail from our fair shores, the All Blacks are our national rugby team, and Michael Jones is a legendary player, beloved for his incredible skills and ability to keep calm under pressure (his nickname was Ice Man). He is also a Christian, and had made a personal decision to not play rugby on Sundays. At the time Michael was at the peak of his career, and Charles Eade had somehow managed to spend some time with him.

I was suitably impressed (bear in mind I was a teenage girl and there may or may not have been a poster of Michael Jones on my wall at that time…).

Me: Wow, what did you talk about? (Thinking I would have been tongue-tied being in the presence of such greatness).

Charles: I asked him what he prayed for before a match.

Me: Huh?

Charles: You know I’ve always wondered what he’d ask for. His passes to stick, for the opposition to fumble, that God might help him score some amazing tries (like touchdowns), to win by a great margin…?

At this point Charles gave me one of those looks, you know the ones where people sort of widen their eyes, and nod their head to make sure you’re with them. Honestly the thought had never crossed my mind, but the question was so – Charles. What would I pray for in his situation? I had no idea.

Me: What did he say?

Charles: Courage. He prayed for the courage to go out and play to the best of his abilities.

And I never forgot it.

It’s not about the show, the hype or even the performance; it’s about having the courage to give it your all. Especially when others are watching. Michael Jones carried the weight of a nation’s expectation with him and always played out of his skin. For those of us who write we have to deliver our work for public scrutiny; and the pressure to perform or produce can be huge. It takes no small measure of courage – but that’s what we need to have.

We write for many reasons. To tell a story, to entertain, to ask questions – of ourselves and our readers, to make a connection. Somewhere in the middle of all of it I hope I can tell a story that sticks too. Even if, like Michael Jones, I never know anything about it.

I’ve read many books that have challenged the way I think – and not because they’ve been overtly making a moral point either. In Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, C.S. Lewis really made think about the way we can be totally convinced by our own versions of truth. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde made me wonder whether a person’s countenance is changed by the life choices they make. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott – that life can often be hard and full of loss – yet still full of hope too.

In my current WIP, the question is about choices. What happens if a good person makes a spectacularly bad choice? Two of my characters do, and respond quite differently. I hope it resonates with someone and makes them think.

Looking back through some old journals I found a poem I wrote some years after my conversation with Charles Eade.

Charles Eade asked Michael Jones
What do you pray for before a game?
               Ball handling
                              Speed
                                             Good hands
                                                            Points?
Do you ask to win
               To anticipate your opponent
                              To play well?
What does a man like you
               Ask God for?
Michael Jones said
               Courage
 
Charles Eade told me
               I have never forgotten

Poetry isn’t my strong suit, but it captured a moment that has really stuck with me and inspired me. How about you? Have you ever been surprised or challenged by a story or conversation?

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9 thoughts on “Stories that Stick – A Word About Courage

  1. Wow, Raewyn! Very moving and inspiring post. It really resonates with me on several levels. I’m sure your conversation with Charles will stick in my head now, become part of my consciousness, that someday I’ll tell someone. I’m betting I won’t remember the names, but I’ll remember the tale.

    1. I’m glad it did for you too. I would have never thought to ask that question, but both of those guys set a huge example for me. A reminder on days when I need to keep perspective.

      Although I have to say you’ve given me one of those phrases yourself…’Suck it up Buttercup.’ You have no idea how often I’ve used that since you posted it on my blog! A turn of phrase that appeals to my sensibilities.

      1. And I got that phrase from a very good friend who tells it to her boys anytime they get whiny. I also have been known to say it to the GPS when it thinks I should go one way, and I choose to go another. Yes, it’s quite handy. 🙂

  2. I’m a bit behind in my reading this week, hence I just read this a moment ago. I love this post! What a wise man Michael Jones must be! (I’m inwardly gushing, but holding back on outward expression so I don’t end up leaving a comment as long as the post.)

    1. It’s funny, many years later his reputation is still solid – he’s really walked the the talk and is a humble man despite all the accolades. And I know that little conversation has often been a reminder to keep my attitude right – to do the best I can with my own gifts – rather than put too much emphasis on flashy outcomes. I’m glad you liked it.

  3. “Courage” is sort of my word/meditation for the year, and this post really resonated with me.

    I’ve started looking at things and asking, “What’s influencing this decision?” If it’s fear– particularly if it’s fear about how another person *might* react– I’m trying to press through it. To see it as practice for when I will “look the whole world in the face and owe not any man.”

    I rarely do things “for kicks.”
    When I have an impulse to do something, it’s because it resonated in me as meaningful. I want to be strong enough that this awareness is a real reason. That my honest opinion has a purpose in the marketplace of ideas, and I don’t need to wait for a majority approval to validate what my core is aching to affirm.

    I am terrified of being wrong, or course, or being out-thunk (;}) or out-maneuvered. But less and less am I seeing those as adequate reasons to be less than I am.

    Especially since I already call myself a writer.

    1. I’m glad the post resonated – courage is a great thing to focus on. I also struggle with overthinking things, and am trying to do the best I can as a writer and to stand behind anything I write. Best of luck!

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