One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the
window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside
his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared
with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the
door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he
hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab
the child's arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning
culvert, Ray's free hand felt something--possibly a rock-- protruding from one bank. He
clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child
away. "If I can just hang on until help comes," he thought. He did better than
that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to
safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the
Coast Guard's Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was
at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can't swim.
Harvey, Los Angeles Times Syndicate.
The Prussian king Frederick the Great was widely known as an agnostic. By contrast,
General Von Zealand, one of his most trusted officers, was a devout Christian. Thus it was
that during a festive gathering the king began making crude jokes about Christ until
everyone was rocking with laughter--all but Von Zealand, that is. Finally, he arose and
addressed the king: "Sire, you know I have not feared death. I have fought and won 38
battles for you. I am an old man; I shall soon have to go into the presence of One greater
than you, the mighty God who saved me from my sin, the Lord Jesus Christ whom you are
blaspheming. I salute you, sire, as an old man who loves his Savior, on the edge of
eternity." The place went silent, and with a trembling voice the king replied,
"General Von Zealand--I beg your pardon! I beg your pardon!" And with that the
party quietly ended.
Today In The Word, August, 1989, p. 7.
Leonidas, King of Sparta, was preparing to make a stand with his Greek troops against
the Persian army in 480 B.C. when a Persian envoy arrived. The man urged on Leonidas the
futility of trying to resist the advance of the huge Persian army. "Our archers are
so numerous," said the envoy, "that the flight of their arrows darkens the
sun." "So much the better," replied Leonidas, "for we shall fight them
in the shade." Leonidas made his stand, and died with his 300 troops.
Today in the Word, November 4, 1993.
Author Leo Buscaglia tells this story about his mother and their "misery
dinner." It was the night after his father came home and said it looked as if he
would have to go into bankruptcy because his partner had absconded with their firm's
funds. His mother went out and sold some jewelry to buy food for a sumptuous feast. Other
members of the family scolded her for it. But she told them that "the time for joy is
now, when we need it most, not next week." Her courageous act rallied the family.
Christopher News Notes, August, 1993.
During his years as premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev denounced many of
the policies and atrocities of Joseph Stalin. Once, as he censured Stalin in a public
meeting, Khrushchev was interrupted by a shout from a heckler in the audience. "You
were one of Stalin's colleagues. Why didn't you stop him?"
"Who said that?" roared Khrushchev. An agonizing silence followed as nobody in
the room dared move a muscle. Then Khrushchev replied quietly, "Now you know
Today in the Word, July 13, 1993.
On May 4, 1897, Duchess Sophie-Charlotte Alencon was presiding over a charity ball in
Paris when the hall caught fire. Flames spread to the paper decorations and flimsy walls,
and in seconds the place was an inferno. In the hideous panic that followed, many women
and children were trampled as they rushed for the exits, while workmen from a nearby site
rushed into the blaze to carry out the trapped women. Some rescuers reached the duchess,
who had remained calmly seated behind her booth. "Because of my title, I was the
first to enter here. I shall be the last to go out," she said, rejecting their offer
of help. She stayed and was burned to death along with more than 120 others.
Today in the Word, April 14, 1993.
Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're
Eddie Rickenbacker, Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993,
The late Earl J. Fleming, an Alaska state biologist, was perhaps the only man to
investigate objectively the bear's reputation for attacking humans. When Fleming
encountered a bear, he neither ran nor shot. At the end of his unique study, he had
encountered 81 brown bears, and although several staged mock charges, not one actually
Mark Walters, Reader's Digest, November 1992, p. 35.
Mstislav "Slava" Rostopovich is a world-famous cellist. Since his exile from
his native Russia in 1974, he has lived in the West. He is currently music director of the
National Symphony Orchestra here in Washington. When the Kremlin hard-liners pulled their
August Coup, "Slava" was in Paris. Instead of scurrying back to the
safety, he and his family flew straight home to Moscow. There, he took up his place in the
"White House," the Russian Federation Building that President Boris Yeltsin and
his elected allies vowed to hold against every assault. In the darkened corridors, someone
gave him a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, but he returned it. Rather, he took out his cello
and gave an impromptu recital to break the awful tension of the siege.
Vol. 2, No. 11, September, 1991.
I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a
mental willingness to endure it.
There was a test conducted by a university where 10 students were placed in a room. 3
lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands
when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed
beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. 1
student was the stooge. The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look
around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time,
with students from grade school through high school. The researchers concluded that many
would rather be president than be right.
C. Swindoll, March 27, 1984.
There's a fine line between courage and foolishness. Too bad it's not a fence.
Jim Fiebig, NANA.
David, a 2-year old with leukemia, was taken by him mother, Deborah, to Massachusetts
General Hospital in Boston, to see Dr. John Truman who specializes in treating children
with cancer and various blood diseases. Dr. Truman's prognosis was devastating: "He
has a 50-50 chance." The countless clinic visits, the blood tests, the intravenous
drugs, the fear and pain--the mother's ordeal can be almost as bad as the child's because
she must stand by, unable to bear the pain herself. David never cried in the waiting room,
and although his friends in the clinic had to hurt him and stick needles in him, he
hustled in ahead of his mother with a smile, sure of the welcome he always got. When he
was three, David had to have a spinal tap--a painful procedure at any age. It was
explained to him that, because he was sick, Dr. Truman had to do something to make him
better. "If it hurts, remember it's because he loves you," Deborah said. The
procedure was horrendous. It took three nurses to hold David still, while he yelled and
sobbed and struggled. When it was almost over, the tiny boy, soaked in sweat and tears,
looked up at the doctor and gasped, "Thank you, Dr. Tooman, for my hurting."
Miracles of Courage, 1985.
A condemned prisoner awaiting execution was granted the usual privilege of
dishes he wanted to eat for his last meal. He ordered a large mess of mushrooms. "Why
all the mushrooms and nothing else?" inquired the guard. "Well," replied
the prisoner, "I always wanted to try them, but was afraid to eat them before!"
When I was a small boy, I attended church every Sunday at a big Gothic Presbyterian
bastion in Chicago. The preaching was powerful and the music was great. But for me, the
most awesome moment in the morning service was the offertory, when twelve solemn,
frock-coated ushers marched in lock-step down the main aisle to receive the brass plates
for collecting the offering. These men, so serious about their business of serving the
Lord in this magnificent house of worship, were the business and professional leaders of
Chicago. One of the twelve ushers was a man named Frank Loesch. He was not a very imposing
looking man, but in Chicago he was a living legend, for he was the man who had stood up to
Al Capone. In the prohibition years, Capone's rule was absolute. The local and state
police and even the Federal Bureau of Investigation were afraid to oppose him. But
singlehandedly, Frank Loesch, as a Christina layman and without any government support,
organized the Chicago Crime Commission, a group of citizens who were determined to take
Mr. Capone to court and put him away. During the months that the Crime
Frank Loesch's life was in constant danger. There were threats on the lives of his family
and friends. But he never wavered. Ultimately he won the case against Capone and was the
instrument for removing this blight from the city of Chicago. Frank Loesch had risked his
life to live out his faith. Each Sunday at this point of the service, my father, a Chicago
businessman himself, never failed to poke me and silently point to Frank Loesch with
pride. Sometime I'd catch a tear in my father's eye. For my dad and for all of us this was
and is what authentic living is all about.
Bruce Larson, in Charles Swindoll, Living Above
the Level of Mediocrity, p.124-5.
One day in 1956, songwriter Johnny Mercer received a letter from Sadie
widowed grandmother who worked behind a cosmetics counter in Youngstown, Ohio. Vimmerstedt
suggested Mercer write a song called "I Want to Be Around to Pick Up the Pieces When
Somebody Breaks Your Heart." Five years later, Mercer got in touch to say he'd
written the song and that Tony Bennett would record it. Today, if you look at the label on
any recording of "I Wanna Be Around," you'll notice that the credits for words
and music are shared by Johnny Mercer and Sadie Vimmerstedt. The royalties were split
50-50, too, thanks to which Vimmerstedt and her heirs have earned more than $100,000. In
my opinion, Mercer's generosity was a class act.
By "class act," I mean any behavior so virtuous that it puts normal behavior
-It was a class act, for instance, when Alexander Hamilton aimed high and fired over Aaron
Burr's head. Benjamin
Geggenhiem performed a class act on the Titanic when he gave his life jacket to a woman
passenger and then put on white tie and tails so he could die "like a
-That same year, 1912, Capt, Lawrence Oates became so frostbitten and lame on Robert
Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. Rather than delay the others in their
desperate trek back from the Pole, he went to the opening of the tent one night and said,
"I am just going outside and may be some time." He thereupon walked to his death
in a blizzard. Certainly a class act.
-On the stage, the tradition that the show must go on has produced a number of class acts.
Katharine Hepburn and Orson Wells have both appeared onstage in wheelchairs.
-During the run of The King and I, Gertrude Lawrence was dying of cancer but told no one.
When she missed a series of performances, the producers wrote her lawyers, suggesting she
was faking illness. They warned that if this continued, she would forfeit her share of the
profits. The letter arrived on a Monday; Gertrude Lawrence had died over the weekend.
-It was a class act of a different order, but a class act nonetheless, for writer Laurence
Housman to take off his jacket at a proper English tea party so that a man who had just
arrived in shirt sleeves would not feel embarrassed.
-Even simple good sportsmanship can rise to the level of class act, as it did with tennis
player Mats Wilander in the semifinals of the 1982 French Open. At match point, a shot by
Wilander's opponent was ruled out. Wilander walked over to the umpire and said, "I
can't win like this. The ball was good." The point was played over, and Wilander won
fair and square.
John Berendt, Esquire, April, 1991.
"I often wish that I could lie down and sleep without waking. But I will fight it
out if I can." So wrote one of the bravest, most inspiring men who ever lived, Sir
Walter Scott. In his 56th year, failing in health, his wife dying of an incurable disease,
Scott was in debt a half million dollars. A publishing firm he had invested in had
collapsed. He might have taken bankruptcy, but shrank from the strain. From his creditors
he asked only time. Thus began his race with death, a valiant effort to pay off the debt
before he died.
To be able to write free from interruptions, Scott withdrew to a small rooming house in
Edinburgh. He had left his dying wife, Charlotte behind in the country. "It withered
my heart," he wrote in his diary, but his presence could avail her nothing now. A few
weeks later she died. After the funeral he wrote in his diary: "Were an enemy coming
upon my house, would I not do my best to fight, although oppressed in spirits; and shall a
similar despondency prevent me from mental exertion? It shall not, by heaven!" With a
tremendous exercise of will, he returned to the task, stifling his grief. He turned out
Woodstock, Count Robert of Paris, Castle Dangerous, and other works. Though twice stricken
with paralysis, he labored steadily until the fall of 1832. Then came a merciful miracle.
Although his mental powers had left him, he died September 21, 1832, happy in the illusion
that all his debts were paid. (They were finally paid in 1847 with the sale of all his
copyrights.) Thomas Carlyle was to write of him latter: "No sounder piece of British
manhood was put together in the eighteenth century of time."
Bits & Pieces,
August 20, 1992, pp. 16-18.
Who was United States Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas? I suppose you could call him a
"Mr. Nobody." No law bears his name. Not a single list of Senate
"greats" mentions his service. Yet when Ross entered the Senate in 1866, he was
considered the man to watch. He seemed destined to surpass his colleagues, but he tossed
it all away by one courageous act of conscience.
Let's set the stage. Conflict was dividing our government in the wake of the Civil War.
President Andrew Johnson was determined to follow Lincoln's policy of reconciliation
toward the defeated South. Congress, however, wanted to rule the downtrodden Confederate
states with an iron hand. Congress decided to strike first. Shortly after Senator Ross was
seated, the Senate introduced impeachment proceedings against the hated President. The
radicals calculated that they needed thirty-six votes, and smiled as they concluded that
the thirty-sixth was none other than Ross'. The new senator listened to the vigilante
talk. But to the surprise of many, he declared that the president "deserved as fair a
trial as any accused man has ever had on earth." The word immediately went out that
his vote was "shaky." Ross received an avalanche of anti-Johnson telegrams from
every section of the country. Radical senators badgered him to "come to his
The fateful day of the vote arrived. The courtroom galleries were packed. Tickets for
admission were at an enormous premium. As a deathlike stillness fell over the Senate
chamber, the vote began. By the time they reached Ross, twenty-four "guilties"
had been announced. Eleven more were certain. Only Ross' vote was needed to impeach the
President. Unable to conceal his emotion, the Chief Justice asked in a trembling voice,
"Mr. Senator Ross, how vote you? Is the respondent Andrew Johnson guilty as
charged?" Ross later explained, at that moment, "I looked into my open grave.
Friendships, position, fortune, and everything that makes life desirable to an ambitions
man were about to be swept away by the breath of my mouth, perhaps forever." Then,
the answer came -- unhesitating, unmistakable: "Not guilty!" With that, the
trial was over. And the response was as predicted.
A high public official from Kansas wired Ross to say: "Kansas repudiates you as
she does all perjurers and skunks." The "open grave" vision had become a
reality. Ross' political career was in ruins. Extreme ostracism, and even physical attack
awaited his family upon their return home. One gloomy day Ross turned to his faithful wife
and said, "Millions cursing me today will bless me tomorrow...though not but God can
know the struggle it has cost me." It was a prophetic declaration.
Twenty years later Congress and the Supreme Court verified the wisdom of his position,
by changing the laws related to impeachment. Ross was appointed Territorial Governor of
New Mexico. Then, just prior to his death, he was awarded a special pension by Congress.
The press and country took this opportunity to honor his courage which, they finally
concluded, had saved our country from crisis and division.
Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong
in the Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 56-58.
Statistics and Stuff
Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always
someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt
you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an
end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but
it takes brave men and women to win them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
A study was recently completed on corporate managers. In it they were asked if they
voiced positions that 1. focused on the good of the company, rather than personal benefit
and 2. jeopardized their own careers. Emerging from this study were the four leader-types
which are found in all organizations.
Type #1 -- courageous. These people expressed ideas to help the company improve, in
spite of personal risk or opposition.
Type #2 -- confronting. These people spoke up, but only because of a personal vendetta
against the company.
Type #3 -- calloused. These people didn't know, or care, whether they could do anything
for the company; they felt helpless and hopeless, so they kept quiet.
Type #4 -- conforming. These people also remained quiet, but only because they loathed
confrontation and loved approval.
The researchers discovered that the courageous managers accomplished the most, reported
the highest job satisfaction, and eventually were commended by superiors. Their commitment
had certainly improved the quality of their lives.
Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the
Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 138-139.
Adrian Rogers tells about the man who bragged that he had cut off the tail of a
man-eating lion with his pocket knife. Asked why he hadn't cut off the lion's head, the
man replied: "Someone had already done that."