Your stories of courage continue.

Here’s the third of your guest submissions on courage. In an ongoing exploration of courage, I’ve asked for short essays on readers’ most courageous moments. For your efforts, I’m giving away two iPod nanos as prizes—the first to the winner of the essay contest and the second to a random commenter.

Mike McCarthy

It took me three picoseconds to think of something. I was young…it was probably around 1948 or 49, and I was in third or fourth grade. Every day, when I walked to St. Alphonsus Catholic School, some guy would stop me and ask for money or whatever I had for snacks etc. He went to the same school. I was afraid of him…he was a few classes ahead of me. It was embarrassing to give him whatever I had on me and somehow, I knew it just wasn’t right. This probably went on for about two or three weeks and now…I can’t remember his name; or even what he looked like.

But…enough is enough, and even at that tender age…he was getting my Irish up. He stopped me on the morning it happened and asked for some money (or food, I’m not sure which). I hesitated and finally gave him what he wanted because I was afraid of him. All that day, in school, I stewed about this. I finally decided I had to do something…something big.

St. Alphonsus school ended at around 3:00 PM, and we all walked home (Auburn, NY was a pretty small town and people were nicer then). I had planned this all day. I saw him ahead of me; near my cousin, Marilyn McCarthy. I started running. I caught up with him and punched him right in the mouth. Not content with that, I wrestled him to the ground and continued punching him. He finally cried, “Stop!” which I did and got off of him. By now, everyone is looking at us. I told him in no uncertain terms, “Don’t you ever stop me again and ask for anything!” He promised he wouldn’t.

I’m sure the good nuns at St. Alphonsus would not have approved of my actions; but I didn’t care. He was a bully and enough was enough. I had not told my parents about any of this…I suspect mainly because they would have expected me to take some action of some sort.

So…what did I learn? Mainly, that bullies will back down if challenged. He never bothered me again, and all of a sudden, I had new friends who had similar experiences with him. Many years later I became a fighter pilot and went through the Vietnam War. While it was often frightening, it paled in comparison to this very young episode. Although I’ve had a lot of experiences…this one came to mind instantly.

What do you think of Mike’s story? Your comment below enters you in the contest, and helps us explore real-world courage. Click here for previous entries.

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