We can find ourselves in the middle of difficult situations when we least expect it—situations that push us beyond the boundaries of a calm, peaceful existence and challenge the very fiber of our being. When faced with such situations, we learn just how strong or brave we actually are.
The truth of the matter is that when it comes to defining brave things done, life gets a bit convoluted. What some people view as an act of bravery others may view as an act of stupidity.
When it comes to acts of bravery, I could tell you the bravest thing I’ve ever done happened the moment I rushed into a burning house and saved a child trapped inside—but that never happened.
I could tell you the bravest thing I’ve ever done happened when I pulled an elderly man from a wrecked vehicle just before his car burst into flames—but that never happened either.
What I’m saying is my journey in life has been mundane to this point, but that’s not all bad. God blessed me with many situations that taught me moral values and helped build my character in ways I didn’t understand until long after they occurred.
You see, brave things are not always about saving someone’s life or going where no man has gone before. Brave things are often about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the face of difficult situations—situations that may be difficult only for them and no one else.
The following true story is a perfect example of performing brave acts:
ONE ROCK TOO MANY
I grew up with a passion for baseball. When I was ten-years old, you would find me playing baseball with neighborhood kids at the nearby vacant lot or in my backyard tossing rocks into the air and hitting them with a stick—any kind of stick became a bat as seen in the photo below.
My stick bat
Sometimes, I would venture across the street and hit rocks from a hill on a corner lot located in front of my house. There were a gazillion rocks there just waiting for me to hit them. I would pick one up, toss it into the air, and whack it down the street while pretending to be a major leaguer smashing the game-winning home run.
I remember picking up a nice-smooth rock one day and hitting it high into the air. I must have pulled it a little too far to the left because when it came down, it went right into the rear glass of a car parked on the street in front of my neighbor’s (Mr. Carr) house. There was a loud crashing noise as the rock shattered the glass into a million pieces. I immediately had a sick feeling in my belly. I knew I was in big, big trouble.
I ran home to tell my mother what happened. I never even thought about lying or trying to get away with what I had done. I owned up to the biggest mistake of my young life. Mama immediately called my dad at work to tell him about the situation. He asked to speak to me and my belly hurt even more.
I told him exactly what I had told Mama—every gut-wrenching detail of my one rock too many. Dad asked if anyone had seen it happen and I told him no. He instructed me to go back to Mr. Carr’s house immediately and tell him what I had done. Then he said the words that almost made my heart stop beating, “I’ll deal with you when I get home from work.”
I never dreamed I would have to go by myself to tell Mr. Carr that I had broken the glass and then have Daddy “deal” with me later. Fear was having a party in my head and I was the guest of honor. I could sense my life was about to end.
I got to Mr. Carr’s house and started walking up the steps to the front door. There must have been a thousand steps up to that door. At least it took me about that long to make it up to the porch level. In reality, I think there were only five steps up to the front door.
I knocked lightly on the door with hopes no one would hear. Unfortunately, the door opened and a man as large as Goliath stood in the doorway looking down at me. He was every bit of ten feet tall with a ferocious look in his eyes that would make a lion run away with its tail tucked between its legs. I knew my life was definitely about to end; I would never be able to play baseball again.
He opened the storm door slowly and asked me how he could help me. I wanted to tell him to go back into the house, but knowing that was not an option, I pointed to the car out front and started telling the tale of one rock too many. The words came out of my mouth very slowly as I told him what I had done. He said he had heard a loud noise but did not know what it was at the time.
We walked out to the car to see the results of my errant rock. The rear glass was in a million pieces and my rock was sitting on the trunk of the car. The very rock I wished I had never picked up.
The first thing Mr. Carr asked was why I had done that to his new car. I tried to explain that it was an accident and I didn’t mean to do it. I could tell he wanted to put me over his knee and let me have it, but he didn’t do that. It would probably have been better for me if he had.
We talked for a few more minutes but I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. I was too scared at that point. At the end of our verbal exchange, he asked if my parents were home, and if they knew what I had done. I told him Mama was home, but Daddy was still at work. Mr. Carr said he would talk to my dad when he got home.
I then returned to my house. It felt like it took three weeks for Daddy to get home. I was in “death-row” agony for hours. The waiting and waiting was horrible because I could not imagine what was going to happen next.
I saw Daddy pull into the driveway. He walked into the house and I explained everything again. It was not any easier this time. He did not say a word the whole time I was talking—he just nodded his head several times. When I finished my tale of woe, Daddy said he was going to talk to Mr. Carr and told me to stay in the house until he returned.
Dad was gone for what seemed like a month, but when he finally returned, he called me over to him. He said lets go to the backyard. I realized the time for a spanking was at hand. I figured he didn’t want Mama to hear me yelling as the paddle made home-run-contact on my rear end—multiple times!
As we were walking to the backyard, Daddy asked me what I thought my punishment should be. I wanted to tell him that I had already suffered enough and he didn’t need to punish me, but I figured he wouldn’t agree with that suggestion. So, I just said, “I don’t know.”
We walked to the tool shed in our back yard and Daddy picked up a huge bucket. He told me he was very sad that I had broken the glass in the neighbor’s car, but he was very proud of me for being brave enough to tell Mama what I had done. He said I had acted like a mature man by telling the truth in the midst of a very difficult and scary situation for a ten-year-old boy.
Unfortunately, Daddy told me that in spite of my bravery, he still had to punish me for what I had done. My punishment was to pick up every rock in the yard and put them into the big bucket he was holding. When I finished, he wanted to see all of the rocks I had collected.
I did as Dad instructed and then showed him the bucket of rocks. The final phase of my punishment was to bury all of the rocks in the corner of the backyard in a very deep hole that I had to dig.
I never knew what happened between Mr. Carr and Daddy, or what they discussed. I was just glad my “rock” ordeal was over. It was a long time before I ever picked up another rock or hit one with a stick. Thank goodness for me, rocks were actually hard to find because I had removed at least a million of them from the yard.
Yes, I eventually hit rocks again, but I always made sure there was nothing around me that I could break. I did not want to go through this nightmare ever again.
As a ten-year-old boy, I had bravely faced a bad situation and learned a valuable life-lesson that has served me well for many years. I confessed what I had done and accepted full responsibility for my actions. I didn’t try to run away and hide, nor did I try to put the blame on others. I bravely accepted my punishment. In the end, a bad situation yielded very good results.
My dad was obviously a very wise man to handle the situation the way he did. I am sure he was much more upset (mad) with me than he appeared. Fortunately, his method of punishment and the words he said to me left a permanent and lasting impression. Although a spanking would have hurt, the pain would not last as long as the lesson I learned. He was compassionate, yet firm with me. His method of handling the situation and the life-lesson I learned that day served me well in my adult life as I dealt with my own children.
Daddy was a special man of high moral character and I consider myself blessed that he was my dad.
Dad and me
Blessings to all…
Tom Tatum – Author – 2019
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