There have been times in Sticky’s life when an important question would flummox him no matter how well he knew the answer; and times he had run away from his problems; and times when he’d felt himself paralyzed when action was most needed. He’d never understood this tendency of his — he knew only that he rarely lived up to expectation, and for this reason had clung so fiercely to his nickname. Any boy with a name like George Washington must surely have great things expected of him.
And yet, in these last days, he’d become friends with people who cared about him, quite above and beyond what was expected of him. With perfect clarity he remembered Reynie saying, “I need you here as a friend.” The effect of those words, and of all his friendships, had grown stronger, and stronger, until — though he couldn’t say why he didn’t feel mixed up now — at the most desperate moment yet, he knew it to be true. There was bravery in him. It only had to be drawn out.
So it was that Sticky stepped in front of Reynie and said, “May I go first, Mr. Curtain? I’ve been looking forward to this ever since my last session.”
— The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
I really like this moment in the story. It’s quite beautiful because this is when Sticky — the boy who ran away, the boy who always felt inferior to his more audacious companions, the boy who wrestled long and hard with fear and cowardice, the boy who felt alone — realizes two very magnificent things: He’s not alone, he has friends who love him and believe in him; and he can be brave. And he acts on that realization by doing something incredibly brave: he volunteers himself for a go with the Whisperer, even though the Whisperer terrifies him, allowing Reynie the few precious seconds necessary to beam a SOS from right under their enemy’s nose. This is Sticky’s hero moment, the moment when he fights the fear rattling in his chest; and not for his own sake, but for the sake of others — his friends, Mr. Benedict’s team on the mainland, and ultimately the world.
I like what this passage says about bravery and friendship: that friendship is something good and powerful, that bravery isn’t measured by the grandness of a person’s gestures, that being brave is impossible without love. It’s so true, all of that. And unfortunately, I find myself forgetting that a lot. I guess I don’t so much as like this passage as I am thankful for it. I’m thankful for the reminder … and also the simultaneous encouragement. Sticky and I are so similar, always feeling cowardly in comparison to our bolder friends, always struggling to be brave. And if he can be brave when bravery is most needed, then so can I.
Readers — What have you been reading lately that has inspired or encouraged you?