Courage runs deep with me. It started with a wise father who lived that lesson himself. John W. Carter Sr. had GUTS. Real guts and he taught me. So this is a personal story about where GUTS comes from. You may find it interesting and helpful to you. So, read on.
I remember when I was a young boy a whole gang of boys came after me on bicycles and knocked me off my bike. I was on my way home after little league football practice. They hit me, spit on me, ridiculed me and humiliated me. Most were older boys and I didn’t stand a chance against them all. There were 20 or more.
After I was thoroughly distraught and crying, I guess they thought they had enough fun and let me go. But then, as I rode off on my bike; they changed their mind. And in an old gravel parking lot, they knocked me down again and continued with another session of terrifying and tormenting me.
My world literally seemed ended. As a child, I was horror stricken to be so despicably used by a gang of boys, I would still have to face every day at school. I knew I would be branded as a coward.
Then a wonderful thing happened, right in the middle of my torture. I saw from the ground my father’s old tree climbing station-wagon drive around the corner at the Old Amazon Cotton Mill. My dad wondered why I didn’t make it home and came to check on me.
I was thrilled. My heart skipped with joy. I repeatedly said to myself, Here comes the rescue squad! Here comes the rescue squad! As my father pulled his vehicle over beside the curb. You have never seen a bunch of boys scatter, as fast as those boys did from the tight knit circle around me. My dad looked like a Mountain coming out of the vehicle and he was obviously in no mood to play.
He dared the boys to move and slowly took off his belt. As he did this, I was saying Yahoo, inside. Then he asked me, which boy was it that had beat me up! Well, it had been several of them. But I picked the biggest, oldest and meanest who had been the most cruel to me. I looked at the gang leader and said “it was him dad”! I was elated to point him out to my father. Then unexpectedly, My father turned his steel-blue eyes to mine and said son; Do you want to fight him or me??? And he wasn’t kidding… My delight turned fast, to resolve. Cause I knew my dad wasn’t kidding and if I had to pick between that grade school ruffian and my father; then my choice was clear. Let me at him! At least it would be one on one, now.
And so I jumped on the bigger, older boy. Everybody claimed he won the fight, because of my bloody nose. All I know is that my father finally stopped the fight, when it seemed I had the better hand of the boy and my dad felt it necessary to pull me off the top of him.
So, On a day when my little world would have been shattered. My dignity was restored. By teaching me to fight for myself and making me face my own challenges; my father did far more for me than he could have by coming to my aid and rescuing me.
Instead of looking at my shoes in shame the next day at school; I held my head high. My father had helped me earn self-respect and the respect of the other boys. I never forgot that lesson. It serves me well, even today. I guess that lesson is the core of why I title this BEAM (blog) GutsIsTheKey. I feel that it is one of the most important lessons in life.
I guess GUTS is not a pretty word. It reminds us of a part of us, nobody but doctor’s want to see. Yet, no part of us is more important than our insides. They make us tick. No GUTS. No life. May not sound pretty but it’s the truth.
And then there is this colloquial connotation of
GUTS being equal to courage. I remember in the
Patton movie, with George C. Scott (telling my age).
He announced to the soldiers: “With your blood
and my GUTS, I will conquer Europe.” Funny thing
though, that didn’t go over very well. People didn’t
like that. I suppose they like it better when we talk
about our own blood, when we mention the word
courage & GUTS.
That was the kind of man my father was. He
demonstrated courage, with his own GUTS.
Growing up, my father was a man’s, man; in a
world where men were still tough. There were no
metro-men back then. I can remember the strongest
of these great World War II era men; telling me
about my dad. They would say said; Your dad has
(you guessed it)…… GUTS.
I remember after climbing trees to cut them
Dad would be bleeding, from where the steel hooks
dug in his legs. I would have never known this, had
I not saw him undress. He was tough and did not
seem to notice pain. Or at least, he didn’t mention
I remember the bully’s dad coming to my house
to whip my dad, after my dad made me fight his
boy to take up for myself. Yet, The man had second
thoughts after he met my dad face to face. He
decided my dad was right, in his unconventional
methods. My dad was tough. And everybody knew
Some people are tough, some times. Dad was
tough all the time. I remember dad working 3
jobs to make his dreams come true. He worked
when other men played. My dad was tough daily
But the toughness I remember most was how
fair my dad was, how he would take up for the
underdog, how he would defend the little guy
and how he knew no prejudice. He would give you a
chance, even if everybody else said you were bad.
He made his own evaluations of people from his own
experiences. Yet though dad was merciful, he would
whip the preacher’s behind, if he caught him
lying, [literally – another story :)]. Yeah, my dad was
tough but more than that; he had GUTS.
How is GUTS more than tough? There was a John
Wayne move called True Grit. My brother has said
that’s what dad had. I think he is right.
GUTS may not be a pretty word but you
can’t live without them. And that’s what I think my
dad had. True Grit, GUTS, the stuff that makes
tough men good, and good men, tough.
I remember being alone with my father after cancer surgery in the middle of the night at Duke University Center. His surgery went awry and because of internal bleeding, he literally swelled up twice his size. I called in the doctors and nurses. They could not get blood in him, as fast as he was losing it. At one moment, when the room was emptied as the doctors readied an operation room, for a second emergency surgery; I knew they would never operate on my father in time. I asked my father if I could pray with him. There in the stillness of the night, my father spoke aloud the 23rd Psalm. I did not know that he knew that passage. Certainly did not know that he knew it by heart. Until he spoke it with conviction in that moment, dangling between life and death.
As my father prayed, I could feel the angelic host come in the hospital room. I could literally see the light lumens in the room brighten. My father, suddenly and unexplainably stopped bleeding without the 2nd surgery that he would have never survived, and this happened at that very moment. My dad had divine courage. The kind of courage that can only come from God. He taught me this.
I thank God for a great father, who taught me
the meaning of courage in many, many ways. I pray this prayer twice
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change;
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
John W. Carter Sr. would be proud to see the courage I have in
my daily life today…….. I think.