Our Year 9 and 10 students took on the substantial topics of “Courage” and “Integrity” for our first two chapel services of the year. They presented to us inspirational clips that they had found – my favourite was the “Dropped Money” experiment. On a university campus, a person dropped cash in a crowded place to see what would happen, and repeated this ten times. Every single young person passed the test, chasing after the owner to return the money, even the students wearing hoodies!
There is much on YouTube that can be inspiring about courage and integrity, most of it involving muscles, sweat, loud, deep voices telling us “we are worth it”, “we can do it”, imploring us to focus and take courage, that we can achieve and feel good about “who you are”. Sometimes courage and integrity involves the opposite – the courage to be honest about our mistakes, to accept that we don’t always measure up – courage that has no fanfare.
My mother was a sole parent, balancing the high wire of children, work, home. Routine and order were her friends. If she had been born a few decades later she would have made a great sergeant in the Australian Army. Saturday morning was “clean your room before you do another thing” time. At the tender age of thirteen, having just started high school, one Saturday I was invited to meet some of my new friends at the local shopping centre. I was nervous, as so much can ride on this kind of invitation for a young girl, but excited at the same time, and not at all confident about my outfit. My mother’s standards were high – I thought my room was in good shape, but we ended up having an argument, which made me late. I left in tears having made the room perfect. On my return my mother asked me to sit down as she wanted to talk to me – I thought I was about to get another “talking to”. To my surprise she said she needed to apologise to me, she was sorry for putting so much pressure on me that morning – it was the time when she should have supported me and the room could have waited until later. This is the courage that can take children by surprise and inspire them way better than muscles and deep voices. Integrity is often about being honest – here it was in my mother’s sincere and honest look at herself, reflecting on what she wanted to be important for her and for me. This was more than a clean room, so this gave her the courage to say she was wrong.
Of course there were many more arguments about the state of my room. However, after that Saturday I do believe that I did try harder for her – out of respect, she had earned that from me that day.