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How to Be Brave

Who is the most courageous person you know? Maybe a family member is serving overseas, or a friend is choosing a new path in midlife. Perhaps your neighbor is a brain surgeon, an inner city teacher, or a solo world traveler.

Big lives demand courage and faith! But so do the smallest, simplest requests for help.

In Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse—a book about a boy’s search for home—the horse was asked a simple question.

“What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever said?” 

“Help,” replied the horse. 

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

It doesn’t feel courageous to ask for help. On the contrary, asking for help can make us feel weak, scared and helpless.

Asking for help

A couple days ago I bought a plush beige loveseat at a thrift store. It wouldn’t fit in my van (or on my bike), so the manager gave me a list of movers to call. 

It only took three calls to discover that not only was same-day delivery impossible, it’d cost over $100. That’s almost as much as the loveseat itself, and I have an empty home to furnish.

So I decided to stand outside and wait for someone to pull up with a truck. Luckily, here in Alberta lots of people have trucks! Also luckily I was at one of the most popular thrift stores in Lethbridge.

I knew I wouldn’t have to wait long, but I was anxious about asking for help. I kept telling myself that there’s no harm in asking, and the worst thing that could happen is they say no. But even so, I felt scared and shy.

While I was rehearsing my request, a young fellow pulled up in a black pickup, hopped out, and walked right past me into the store. 

He didn’t look at me, and I didn’t have the guts to stop him.

The risk of rejection

I stood paralyzed outside the store, hoping someone else would come. I wanted them to look at me and say, “Hey, you look like you just bought a loveseat! Need help getting it home?”

When that didn’t happen, I went into the store. As I meandered through the furniture section, I spotted Truck Guy examining some HDMI cables. He was a few hundred feet away from my loveseat. 

I edged closer. He didn’t notice me. I cleared my throat, hoping we’d make at least make eye contact before I asked him—a complete stranger—for a such a big favour.

Truck Guy still didn’t look up. I coughed quietly and cleared my throat again. He nodded at the two HDMI cables in his hands and started to walk away.

I had no choice but to stop him. 

“Excuse me,” I whispered, then had to clear my throat for real this time. “Pardon me! I’m sorry to bother you but I just bought that love seat—see the plush beige one there?—and I only live three blocks away and I rode my bike here and I have no way to get it home and I saw you have a truck and I was wondering if I paid you, could you please help me get it home?”

Truck Guy looked at me, then at the furniture section. “Which one?”

I pointed and spoke fast. “I’ll pay you, I live real close, it’ll only take a few minutes.”

Truck Guy nodded. “Okay.”

Jackpot! 

The cost of being brave

Truck Guy refused to take the $20 I offered him. So while it didn’t cost me money to be brave, it was surprisingly risky! I felt scared and anxious, vulnerable and alone.

That’s why the horse in Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse believes the most courageous thing he ever said was “Help.”

Asking for help is hard because it’s a power shift. It makes us feel needy and vulnerable, weak and helpless. And if we can’t repay the person, we can feel beholden to them. 

Remember the horse the next time you need help. Know that asking for help is the strongest, bravest, most courageous thing you could do. 

And, asking for help gives someone else the chance to be strong, generous and kind! Since it feels good to be needed and useful, you’re actually doing them a favour 🙂   

With love,

Laurie

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