Virtue of the Week: Courage

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.John Wayne

They Sent Me to FinishThey Sent Me to Finish

The Olympic Games, Mexico, 1968. The marathon is the final event on the program. The Olympic stadium is packed and there is excitement as the first athlete, an Ethiopian runner, enters the stadium. The crowd erupts as he crosses the finish line. Way back in the field is another runner, John Stephen Akwhari of Tanzania. He has been eclipsed by the other runners. After 30 kilometers his head is throbbing, his muscles are aching and he falls to the ground. He has serious leg injuries and officials want him to retire, but he refuses. With his knee bandaged Akwhari picks himself up and hobbles the remaining 12 kilometers to the finish line. An hour after the winner has finished Akwhari enters the stadium. All but a few thousand of the crowd have gone home. Akwhari moves around the track at a painstakingly slow pace, until finally he collapses over the finish line.

It is one of the most heroic efforts of Olympic history. Afterward, asked by a reporter why he had not dropped out, Akwhari says, “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.William Faulkner

Paul Harvey on CouragePaul Harvey on Courage

One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something–possibly a rock– protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. “If I can just hang on until help comes,” he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship couldn’t swim.


In the 16th century, when given a task of invading a dangerous island with his troops, Spanish conquistador and leader, Hernan Cortes was concerned about the commitment of some of his men. After departing the boats and arriving on land, Cortes immediately ordered the ships burned. By burning his own boats, he was sending a clear message to his army – “There is no turning back – we will either succeed here or we die here.” Excuses for not committing were gone. Burn the Boats!

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.August Wilson
I am hurt, but I am not slaine;
I’ll lie me down and bleed a while,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.English Folk Song about Sir Andrew Barton

So Little Courage

There was a test conducted by a university where 10 students were placed in a room. 3 lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. 1 student was the stooge. The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time, with students from grade school through high school. The researchers concluded that many would rather go along with the crowd even when that was opposed to their own personal belief.C. Swindoll
I cannot have a man who is afraid of everything, I don’t have the time to soothe insecurities and fears, I cannot have a man who is standing on a stone by a creek, watching for the fish to swim by and every time he sees a fish he says “Oh look, this fish scares me, I wonder what this fish means, this fish might mean- this, or this fish might mean- that” for God’s sake, they are just fish, and they don’t mean anything! Such a sad thing, so many fine, strong men standing on top of little stones, pointing at fish all the time! Such a waste! Such a waste of time! I can only have a man who will leap into the water, not minding the damn fish and whatever other little things that scare him. I need to have someone who is braver than me; if I am a pirate, he has to be the pirate Captain, if I am a pirate Captain he has to be the flying dragon.C. JoyBell C.

A Kingdom for FlowersA Kingdom for Flowers
by Tuly Flint

In another time and another land, there was a wise and benevolent king and queen. The kingdom prospered under their enlightened rule. But there was a problem. As the royal couple reached old age, they had no heirs.“Yes,” the queen said, “I can see this is a problem. We don’t want to leave a legacy of battles over who will ascend to the throne. We don’t want the kingdom we have worked so hard to build to be torn apart after we pass on.” So the king and queen came up with a plan. They asked their advisors to call together all of the children from all corners of the kingdom. Within a month, the gathering took place. All of the children of the kingdom, ages 8 to 16, gathered in the courtyard of the palace. They cheered when the king and queen appeared. A servant followed the royal couple as they made their way through the crowd. The servant carried a huge basket. From the basket, each child drew a small bag of seeds. “Each of you should go home and plant the seeds you drew from the basket,” the king proclaimed. “In three months, we will tour the kingdom. The child who plants these seeds who grows the nicest and most creative flower garden with these seeds will be our heir.” Not everyone was pleased with the royal couple’s plan. After all, they expected the heir to be a wise and trustworthy leader, a person with vision, not a gardener. But, out of respect for the king and queen, they acquiesced. Each child took the seeds and tried to be as creative as they could be with their gardens. One grew flowers in the bathtub and other planted the seeds in an old shoe. Someone else grew flowers in an old coat. All of the finalists grew beautiful flowers. All except for one small girl. People laughed when the girl applied to be considered as one of the finalists. No matter how hard she had tried, nothing at all grew from her seeds. She changed the earth, watered the seeds and added fertilizer, but it was all for naught. When asked to explain her apparent lack of success — and why she thought she deserved to be considered as heir to the throne — the girl said, “Your highnesses, I have tried everything and talked with everyone who could teach anything about growing flowers. I thought of finding other seeds, but your orders were explicit — to grow what we could, using the seeds from the bag. I have a second garden, which grew beautifully with other seeds. But, no matter how hard I tried, Your Highness, nothing at all grew from the royal seeds.” The royal couple smiled at her explanation. They chose her as their heir, over children who had grown beautiful and elaborate floral displays. There was, of course, a great uproar when the royal couple announced their choice. It was outrageous enough that the king and queen wanted a child who was capable of gardening rather than leading or governing. But why would the royal couple choose the very worst gardener in the kingdom, the one who could grow nothing at all from the royal seeds? The king and queen explained their plan. “This wasn’t a test of gardening,” they explained. “It was a test of character and courage. All of the seeds in the royal basket were boiled before they were given to the children. None of them were capable of growing flowers. Clearly, only one small girl had the courage to play by the rules, tell the truth and keep bringing people together and learning, despite her frustration. She’s shown you what she’s made of, and why she’s worthy of being your next queen.”

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