One of the greatest gifts my father gave me—unintentionally—was witnessing the courage with which he bore adversity. He was always unshaken, completely tranquil, the same ebullient, laughing, jovial man. — Ben Okri (b. 1959) Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us. — Voltaire (1694–1778)
The weather was perfect, and most of my friends were looking forward to a relaxing holiday weekend, but not me. A recent bout of illness had left me far behind in my schoolwork, and I faced a mountain of projects, reports, and assignments to complete before the end of the month. I felt overwhelmed and undercharged.
After several hours of frantic work, I still hadn’t made much headway, so I decided that some time in nature might lift my spirits, and I headed toward a large nearby park. The usually quiet lanes and lawns were alive with parents and children, and their excited laughter and voices filled the air.
I had been walking for some time when a child’s eager squeal caught my attention. I turned to see a father playing soccer with his young son, who looked about three years old. The little boy ran wildly around the field, kicking and chasing the ball. He often didn’t even make contact with the ball, and he missed many of the shots his father passed him, but he continued playing with such passion and enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but smile.
After watching for a while, I noticed something unusual about the father’s right arm. While the rest of his body moved nimbly with him as he ran and kicked, his right hand and arm hung motionlessly by his side. Undaunted, he motioned to his son with his one good arm and passed him another shot.
I headed home in the setting sun with the pair’s infectious laughter still echoing in my ears. I don’t think that father would consider himself a great moral teacher, but unbeknownst to him, that Sunday afternoon he became my inspiration. His cheerful, selfless example put my petty problems in perspective and encouraged me to face my challenges with the same spirit of courage and faith. Elsa Sichrovsky is a high school student and lives with her family in Taiwan.