Moonbeams

Moonbeams

Published on february 6th, 2019

It takes courage to get to clarity and clarity to get to courage.

My senior year of high school I was quarterback and captain of the Harlem Huskies football team, which was having a miserable season.   After we had been trounced by the Belvidere Bucs, 21-0, Coach Young made a speech on the bus before we headed home. He told us how poorly we played and shouted, “To be a better team, you need to be like the Green Bay Packers. They are all friends with each other. Some of you have friends that are miserable people.”  As we rode back home I thought, “Coach made no sense. He was the coach and I had to respect him, but who is he to tell us who our friends ought to be? Everyone needs friends and we don’t always get to choose who they are.” As the bus pulled into the parking lot I had a moment of clarity, “Friendship is more important than football.”
I showered and got dressed and took my dirty uniform to the wash pile in the coach’s office. Coach Young was sitting there with Mr. Holladay, his assistant. I had a moment of courage and decided to say something. I dropped my uniform on the pile, took a deep breath and with my heart thumping turned to the coaches, voice shaking and said, “Mr. Young, as captain of this team I have to say something. What you said on the bus was wrong. Kids need friends and we don’t always get to choose them. A lot of times we take who we can get. Friendship is more important than football.” Mr. Holladay’s eyes widened. Coach stared at me…didn’t say a word…then nodded his head. I took that as my cue, walked out the door and headed toward the parking lot. Tears ran down my face. I heard the door open behind me and someone shouted, “Moon. Stop!” I stood still and braced myself for a tongue lashing.   A hand grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. “Moon,” Mr. Holladay said, “That was harder than any football game you will ever play. That took courage. Regardless of what Coach says or does, you can be proud of that.”
“Courage”, which in the 1700’s was narrowed to mean “bravery,” comes from the Latin word, “Cor” meaning “heart.” In contemporary English “heart” is a metaphor for our innermost feelings or passions. It takes courage to clarify what our innermost feelings and passions actually are.   It is scary to look beneath the fear and anger and the other imposters: people pleasing, convenience and winning; to name a few. Only the brave can descend into the cross currents of their own heart long enough to find the true, clear river. My 18 year old self was brave, I suppose, to face my feelings about what Coach had said. That clarity enabled me to be bold, to call out Coach regardless of consequences.
Coach never said anything to me about that confrontation. At the Football Banquet, he called me up front to give me my senior letter. I had been a decent passer, and since the news was all about NASA getting a man on the moon, he made a joke about how NASA might want me for my “Moon Launch.” People laughed. Then he handed me my varsity letter and stared at me…didn’t say a word…nodded. I took that as my cue and turned… He said, “Moon.” I turned back to him. “You were a good captain.”


It takes courage to get to clarity and clarity to get to courage.

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