Lesson from a Son

Lesson from a Son

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

Lesson from a Son

If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.

~Benjamin Franklin

My son Daniel’s passion for surfing began at the age of 13. Before and after school each day, he donned his wet suit, paddled out beyond the surf line and waited to be challenged by his three- to six-foot companions. Daniel’s love of the ride was tested one fateful afternoon.

“Your son’s been in an accident,” the lifeguard reported over the phone to my husband Mike.

“How bad?”

“Bad. When he surfaced to the top of the water, the point of the board was headed toward his eye.”

Mike rushed him to the emergency room and they were then sent to a plastic surgeon’s office. He received 26 stitches from the corner of his eye to the bridge of his nose.

I was on an airplane flying home from a speaking engagement while Dan’s eye was being stitched. Mike drove directly to the airport after they left the doctor’s office. He greeted me at the gate and told me Dan was waiting in the car.

“Daniel?” I questioned. I remember thinking the waves must have been lousy that day.

“He’s been in an accident, but he’s going to be fine.”

A traveling working mother’s worst nightmare had come true. I ran to the car so fast the heel of my shoe broke off. I swung open the door, and my youngest son with the patched eye was leaning forward with both arms stretched out toward me crying, “Oh, Mom, I’m so glad you’re home.”

I sobbed in his arms telling him how awful I felt about not being there when the lifeguard called.

“It’s okay, Mom,” he comforted me. “You don’t know how to surf anyway.”

“What?” I asked, confused by his logic.

“I’ll be fine. The doctor says I can go back in the water in eight days.”

Was he out of his mind? I wanted to tell him he wasn’t allowed to go near water again until he was 35, but instead I bit my tongue and prayed he would forget about surfing forevermore.

For the next seven days he kept pressing me to let him go back on the board. One day after I emphatically repeated “No” to him for the 100th time, he beat me at my own game.

“Mom, you taught us never to give up what we love.”

Then he handed me a bribe — a framed poem by Langston

Hughes that he bought “because it reminded me of you.”

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it.

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor —


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So, boy, don’t you turn back,

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now —

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

I gave in.

Back then Daniel was a just a boy with a passion for surfing. Now he’s a man with a responsibility. He ranks among the top 25 pro surfers in the world.

I was tested in my own back yard on an important principle that I teach audiences in distant cities: “Passionate people embrace what they love and never give up.”

~Danielle Kennedy

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