King of the Forest

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Recently, I attended a weekend retreat for the internship I took through the Maxim Institute in Auckland New Zealand. Alumni Weekend. A time where interns, past and new get together and laugh about old stories, update each other on what the internship has done for them, eat, drink, and you know…be merry. Obviously it’s so much more than that, but I want to talk about something that greatly touched me over that weekend.

Sunday morning, there was a speaker who was speaking on Courage. It was the theme of the weekend. Only, he never talked about it. Instead, he shared a story about his most recent year. He went into great detail about how hard it was. How he felt like a failure at work. How the demands were more than he could have ever imagined. How whenever he left the house, turned to say good-bye, and saw his daughter wave at him, all he wanted to do was go play with her. He told us how he felt like he was missing out on the first years of her life, and how he wasn’t around as much as he should have been for his wife. His job was taking over and he didn’t know how to make it all work. He was sinking, fast.

It was around this point that the speaker stopped. He gathered himself as he looked at his wife in the audience, then he looked back at the podium. As he began to talk again, he couldn’t hold it back anymore. With every word he spoke, I could feel the raw emotion behind it. This was the picture of a man who had been down the path of insecurity, vulnerability, humility, brokenness, and courage.

I have never seen this man cry before. I know him from alumni gatherings, and shared friend groups. In all that time, I had built up an image of who he was. Even in his talk, he talked about how he built up an image of who he wanted others to see him as. He told us a few other things that surprised me. For his sake, I won’t repeat them, but they were things you usually wouldn’t tell a group of people. As I sat there listening to him and feeling his every sigh, I began to realise what he was doing. I was witnessing a man not merely talking about courage, but taking part in it. Before me was one of the most courageous things an alumni has done for his fellow alumni…he opened himself wide open and flipped all the cards over.

I was looking at courage. For a man to admit his failings, his raw emotions, and then to know that in doing this, he might not be able to prevent himself breaking down in public, AND for it to come from a man I previously thought would never do this…it touched me. I was proud of the community that I was apart of in that room. I think I speak for everyone who heard him that morning when I say that it was beautiful. This is living, this is doing life with each other. The masks are fake even when we feel more comfortable in them; seeking the approval of others.

Thank you Sunday speaker. Thank you for doing much more than what a talk on courage ever could have done.


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