The Last Word

By George Gray | Posted: Thursday March 2, 2017

COURAGE - As a skinny, nave, 12-year-old, the word courage had probably never passed through my Grandfathers mind. But he was about to meet it.

It was 1949 he and his family were travelling from home town Kemnay, Eastern Scotland, to Otautau, Western Southland… New Zealand.

With still one more year until he could make the embarrassing decision of attending Southland Boys’ High School, he went along to Otautau Primary. A school of just 80.

Coming from an upper class lifestyle in the U.K, and being the son of a Minister, Grandad wore his cap, buttoned shirt, tie, blazer, kilt, long socks and gleaming shoes on his first day. Only to see fellow classmates storm in with singlets and shorts, if that.

The Southlanders did not like the new kid, because he sounded different and he looked different. “By the end of the day I had been in 14 fights and my uniform was in tatters,” he told me.

While it was courageous for my Grandad to fight, even more courageous was the one local boy who stood up for him. One local boy went against all of his mates, to help a complete stranger, because it was the right thing to do. To me, this is courage.

Before choosing to talk about courage today, I thought the value was only really shown on war fields, on movies, or in the Colosseum. I thought you had to be a hero.

I then looked the word up, only to realise that OB’s boys are courageous every day. Courage is “the quality that enables people to meet danger without giving way to fear.” Or in my words, doing what is right while it may not be easy.

The Year 9s of MC6, who stood up in front of the class last week to promote themselves for Junior Leader, are courageous. The boys who are trialling for 1sts sports teams, with the knowledge that they may not make the cut, are courageous. The boys who have told a mate on a restricted license not to drive home when it’s after 10, are courageous. Simple acts, boys, can be courageous. And they can go a very long way.

An example of this is Rosa Parks. She was a black woman who sat in the front of a bus in 1955 Alabama. The front of the bus was reserved for white people. When ordered to give up her seat for a white passenger. Rosa Parks said, “No.” She did not move, nor could anyone make her move.

One word, one act, one belief, helped de-segregation efforts in America. Her defiance was undoubtedly courageous, and it became a symbol for civil rights movements around the world. Nowadays Parks is a hero. For me, she is the epitome of courage, as she not only fought for racial equality, but ultimately she fought for what was right. And all she said was “no.”

Being one of our five school values, it is our responsibility to show courage. At an age where we are exposed to a wide range of things - good, bad and dangerous - this value is arguably the most important. I urge you to watch out for your OBHS brothers, to give them a tap on the shoulder when needed. It won’t be easy, but it will be courageous.

All those years ago, at a school in Southland, one boy stood up against his mates for a stranger. That stranger was my Grandad, and from that day on, the two were best friends for the rest of their lives.

As Albus Dumbledore once said, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”