From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Standing Up

Courage is simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.

Robert Anthony

When I was ten years old, I spent two weeks at a girls’ summer camp where it rained every day. I remember cleaning the outhouses and having to live with the spiders, mosquitoes, ticks, and muddy trails. The tents weren’t bad, though. They had wood floors and a canvas top, and four to six kids slept in each of them.

My favorite times were the rainy nights when my roommates and I would read and write letters. Our favorite thing to do was make shadow shows with our flashlights on the tent walls until the camp counselors would suddenly open the cabin door, scare us to death, and then tell us to go to sleep.

One evening at dinner, they made all of the kids eat a piece of meat they pretended was “pig intestines.” I hid mine in my napkin, but got caught, so the counselors made me eat it right in front of them. I gagged because it really smelled bad, and it tasted as bad as it smelled.

I’ll always remember the evening of the ice-cream social with the boys’ camp across the lake.

After dinner, when some poor girl threw her chicken bones into the paper basket, the camp counselors got mad. They told us that no one was going to have ice cream until the person who threw the chicken in the paper basket stood up and admitted her mistake. No one said a thing.

Then one of the counselors said, “Okay. We’ll close our eyes, along with everyone else. Whoever put the chicken in the paper basket can go take it out and put it into the correct trash can. We won’t say a thing, and then we can all have ice cream.”

We all closed our eyes three times, but all three times, nobody moved. On the fourth round of closing our eyes, the counselors started talking about canceling the ice-cream social. That’s when I thought to myself, This is ridiculous. Somebody has to do something. They can’t take our ice-cream social away. That’s not fair!

Even though I wasn’t the one who threw the chicken in the basket, I felt sorry for whoever did and how scared she must have been.

“Okay, everyone . . . one more time. Close your eyes, and we’ll slowly count to ten,” the counselors yelled out. Everyone closed their eyes. That’s when I made my move. I slowly opened my eyes, and quickly and quietly tiptoed to the paper basket. I pulled out the chicken bones. Suddenly, I heard the counselors speed up their counting, “ . . . 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.” They opened their eyes and shouted, “Ah, ha!”

I was so scared. I told them that I hadn’t been the one who put the chicken in the paper basket.

“Then why did you take the chicken out of the paper basket?” they asked.

“Because . . . I wanted everyone to have ice cream,” I cried.

The counselors pointed out to all the other girls how good I was, and therefore, I would be the only one allowed to have ice cream. That made me feel really bad, so I stood where I was with my feet together and my arms crossed. “If the rest of the troop can’t have ice cream, then I don’t want any either,” I said.

The counselors eventually gave in and let all of the kids have ice cream. I was amazed.

To this day, I still don’t know what made me do that. Maybe, deep down inside, I knew even then there are times when kids need to stand up for each other.

Christine Mix


Reprinted by permission of Robert Berardi. ©2007 Robert Berardi.

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