"Courage is that quality of mind which meets danger or opposition with calmness and firmness which enables a man to face difficulties that lie in his pathway to righteous achievement...Courage implies facing difficulties and overcoming them."
-David O. McKay
We had a little experience last night that has had me thinking about this quote for the past 12 hours. Last night was one of those nights where almost everyone has some where different to be at almost the same time. Spencer and Steven had scouts at 6:00. Spencer at the scout master's house. Steven at the church. Ryan had a soccer game at 6:30 and Greg was the designated driver and parent in attendance. Erica and I had Young Women at 7:00 at the church. As we currently don't have an 11-year-old Scout leader, Joseph was the only one not rushing out the door. Our schedules meant that he would be home by himself for an hour or so, until Greg and Ryan got home form the game. No big deal, he stays home all the time.
About 7:50 I had a call from home on my cell phone. I hate it when the girls (or the leaders) use their phones during YW and since Greg should have been home long before that, I didn't feel like taking the call and answering a profound question like, "Can we have some ice cream?" Unexpected calls from home always worry me, just a little, so I changed my mind and stepped out into the hall to return it.
The phone rang and was answered by someone. All I could her was yelling or hysterics over an extremely terrible connection. I couldn't even tell who it was. Finally I could make out that it was Joseph. He sounded hysterical and said something about a man and the back door and then the line went dead. My heart about stopped and fell out on the floor. My first thought was , "Where is Greg? He should be home by now." I called his phone. The game had started late, but he was almost to the bottom of our hill and was on his way to take Ryans friend, Jaron, home. I told him about Joseph's call and he agreed to book it home as fast as he could. I, being health and gasoline conscious, had of course walked to church and it would take me a good 10 minutes to get back home. Greg would definitely beat me. I called home, but no one answered. I decided to keep calling until either Joseph or Greg picked up.
Part way through my 4th call, I turned around to see Joseph sobbing and running barefoot down the church hallway. I gave him a huge hug and sat on the couch, waiting for him to calm down and tell me what happened-oh, and called Greg to tell him that Joseph wasn't home so he wouldn't freak out when he got there.
Turns out that the doorbell had rung and Joseph had answered it. A tall creepy-looking man with short, reddish blond hair asked to speak to his parents. Joseph said they weren't able to come to the door then and to come back later. Then the man looked at him very strangely and told him to go ask his parents why the couldn't come to the door. That was enough on the creep-o-meter for Joseph. He shut the door and locked it, grabbed the phone, and ran out the back door; calling me on the way. The connection was terrible because he was rapidly running through the backyard behind our house and away from the phone base. It went dead when he got out of range.
Greg got home and found no one. He made Ryan and Jaron stay in the car with the doors locked, just in case. He searched the house but found no one there and nothing out of place (except the total destruction in the basement from Ryan and Jaron playing all afternoon). He closed and locked the house and left to take Jaron home. On the way, he passed a man meeting Joseph's description at the door of our neighbor, Nicole, down the street. She's our Primary president, so Greg went and confronted him at her door. Greg said he did look kind of creepy and didn't seem at all concerned that he had terrified our son. Nicole called later to say that she had been kind of creeped out, too. The guy was going door-to-door selling essential oils. She had been trying to close the door and go get her kids to bed, but he wouldn't let her. I don't know where he went after that, but Greg came down to church to pick up Joseph and Steven and they saw him walking across the street on their way home. We haven't seen him since.
So, it was a totally freaky experience, but has had me thinking about courage. Courage really isn't the "laugh-in-the-face-of-danger" bravado that we sometimes imagine. It really is keeping a cool head and doing what needs to be done in the face of some obstacle or difficulty. In Joseph's case, it happened to be intense personal danger-or at least the perception of it. (I really want to believe that it was just a really bad case of miscommunication and misunderstanding, but I don't know that.) Sometimes courage is standing up to do what's right, even if it means doing so all by yourself in the face of laughter or ridicule. No one "laughs in the face of danger" at those times, but that's when the biggest character strides forward are taken and the deepest depths of your strength and faith are tested. I'm hoping that this particular instance gives Joseph the knowledge that he can remember the right things to do and then do them even when the doing seems impossible, whatever the circumstance. Because, last night, my hero was a terrified young man who faced a very huge difficulty and overcame it.