Jason’s Courage


I hadn’t meant to do it. But everything happened so fast, and I was suddenly in the worst mess that I’ve ever been in, in my whole life.

It all started while I was playing ball in the parking lot by the church. I was minding my own business, just practicing my batting. I’d throw the ball up, watch carefully, and when it dropped to just the right spot, I’d swing. I was perfectly happy to be hitting two out of every three tosses. Then Brian showed up.

Brian is huge and strong, with pale eyes and big teeth that he sneers through. Mom says that I should try to be friends with him, but he scares me. Some of the kids in the ward say that I’m a chicken, and I guess that it’s true. I try to be brave, but then my heart starts pounding, and my lungs start gasping, and my legs run.

Well, Brian came over and grabbed the bat out of my hands. “Let me show you how to do it right,” he said.

He hit the ball clear out of the parking lot into the grassy field beyond it. Then he threw down the bat and smirked. “That’s how you hit a ball!”

I watched him leave, then started looking for the ball. Fifteen minutes later I found it in a clump of dandelions near the sidewalk. I grabbed the ball and stomped back to the parking lot. I was really boiling. Clutching the bat, I threw the ball high, squinted at it with both eyes, gritted my teeth, and swung with all my might.

Craaack! The ball flew hard and fast—straight as an arrow—through a classroom window in the meetinghouse. I sneaked home quickly and quietly.

We had fried chicken for dinner. Chicken’s my favorite, but that night it seemed dry, and I couldn’t get it down. Dad came in late from a meeting at the church. After he’d started eating, he told about the church window being broken and about how the bishop suspected that maybe some of the neighborhood children had done it. I sank lower and lower in my chair and finally asked Mom if I could leave the table. She looked at me strangely and took so long answering that I thought she might say no, but she didn’t.

Brian wasn’t at church on Sunday. Since he was the only one who had seen me in the parking lot, I thought that I was safe. Then about halfway through the class period, the bishop started calling the boys into his office. I hoped that class would end before it was my turn, but when Brother Lyons came in and said, “Jason, you’re next,” I knew that there was no hope of escape.

I sat in the black leather chair across from Bishop Williams. His blue eyes were clear and steady. “Well, Jason?” he said.

I swallowed hard and studied the floor. I could see the bishop’s black, polished shoes under his desk, and they moved every time he spoke.

“Do you know anything about the window, Jason?”

I opened my mouth to say no, but nothing came out. My stomach felt as though I had swallowed a handful of jumping beans. Bishop Williams was studying my face, and he looked like he was set to wait all day for my answer.

A picture of President Benson is on the wall behind the bishop’s desk, and as I looked from it to him and back again, I knew that I couldn’t lie. Lying to the bishop would be the very same thing as lying to Heavenly Father. And no matter what, I couldn’t lie to Heavenly Father.

“I broke it,” I said, almost choking on the words. After I said it, I felt worse than I had ever felt in my whole life, not because I had to pay for the window but because I had been too much of a coward to admit that I had broken the window in the first place—and because the others would keep calling me chicken.

I didn’t want to go to church the next week, but Mom and Dad made me go. Our family was late for fast and testimony meeting, so there was nowhere to sit but on the front row. I sat between Mom and Dad and tried not to look up.

When Bishop Williams stood at the pulpit to bear his testimony, he talked about having the courage to do what is right. He talked about paying tithing when we’re poor, keeping the Word of Wisdom when we’re tempted, and attending the temple even though we don’t seem to have the time. His eyes traveled slowly across the congregation until they came to rest on me. He leaned forward, his hands gripping the edges of the pulpit, and studied me really hard. Then the bishop spoke again, very clearly and slowly: “I want you to know that it also takes a lot of courage to tell the truth.”

And I knew that he was talking right to me.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Karl Hepworth