My Letter to "Inspire" • Feb 26, 2004


I apologize in advance for a somewhat lengthy message, but as a longtime subscriber to your service (4+ years), I thought you would enjoy this.

On Saturday, February 21, 2004, I headed off to our boat with Duncan (age 9), the oldest of my three sons, to do some pre-season maintenance. During the hour-long ride down to the marina we were enjoying some quality, father-son, one-on-one conversation about such weighty topics as school, video games, chocolate as one of the major food groups, and one that really caught me by surprise: “What was Frank Sinatra talking about in the song 'Makin’ Whoopee'?"

Duncan is an honor-roll student, a friendly, good-hearted young man, and sensitive to others feelings (sometimes to a fault). Much to his frustration, he sometimes suffers from heightened anxiety—a trait that, much to my regret, he inherited from his parents—but he perseveres. He is small in stature, but I remind him that I was small at his age as well, and now stand 6’ 4”, which is a thought that seems to give him hope.

At some point, our meandering conversations led us to the subject of the requirement for up-and-coming fifth graders to have a tetanus booster shot, which has recently been an anxiety hot button. After we worked through the particulars of that issue, our conversation moved into a general discussion about our fears, how they affect us, and how we handle (or don’t handle) them.

It was at that point when out of the blue he said something I thought was utterly profound. During a pause in our conversation, in his best 9 year-old Zig-Ziggler/Teddy Roosevelt/Thomas Jefferson voice, he stated very matter-of-factly “Never let your fear take over your conscience”.

A bit flabbergasted, I asked him where he had heard that. He looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said “Nowhere Dad. I just made it up”. Needless to say, we spent a long time after that talking about what it meant, and how to live by his sage words.

As I explained to Duncan, when I am called to speak in public, I often go back to the many quotes from your service that I’ve saved over the years and incorporate one or two of them into my presentation. (My favorite is Ralph Waldo Emerson, who's quote about fear hangs over my desk.) Maybe I’m just a biased father, but I think Duncan’s quote is every bit as wise and profound as most of those that come through my Inbox. I did some searching on the Internet, and found other quotes about fear, conscience and courage, but I didn’t find any as succinct as his, which to the best of my recollection, is written exactly as he spoke it. That said, I thought I’d forward this on to you. Perhaps you will think his words are worthy of sending as an “Inspire” quote. If not, I still thought you would appreciate this “pearl of wisdom” from a terrific 9 year-old.

Chris Bevan