Broadcast on BBC Radio2, Pause for Thought, 2005
Some of my relations are farmers and every summer we would find ourselves camped out on one or another of their farms. One summer, when I was eight years old, my two older brothers and I charged up a ladder to crest a twenty-foot haystack. It was one of those silly competitions boys seem to have to see who can get to the top first.
Anyway, my older brother got to the top first, jumped in the middle and covered himself with straw. He told me to hide so when my other brother got to the top we wouldn’t be seen. I flung my body over a pile of straw only to fall twenty feet down on the other side. I landed on my face, on concrete. By some miracle I wasn’t really injured apart from a bit of a bloody nose.
My whole family came running out to the farmhouse, including my six aunts on my mother’s side, two of whom were nurses. The sudden drop gave me a bit of a shock, so I started to cry, which brought some welcome maternal fuss. This was confounded by the aunt-nurses who told me I was all right so I should stop crying, which I begrudgingly did because I loved the bit of attention.
After getting my face squashed and my emotions patched and blessings from everyone, my father took me by the hand and brought me out to the haystack and stood there looking at it and asked if we should climb up? I protested, why would I want to climb up that haystack again? He insisted so we both climbed up to the top of the haystack and my father and I sat in the middle and he looked at me and said it was important to climb up and sit here because He didn’t want me to be afraid of fun, haystacks or heights.
I often reflect on that little moment, that little bubble of wisdom. And as the years have passed I have appreciated my father even more for taking that time with me, just a little thing but it has meant so much in other areas of my life since. There are many times when something unusual, comic, or tragic may happen to us, but we must not be afraid to revisit the circumstance in order to resolve it in our hearts. Sometimes it is very easy to run away from a circumstance or relationship, when we could instead climb our haystack and find our courage again.