The writer C. S. Lewis carried on a massive correspondence during his lifetime. Many of the letters are collected in three volumes and are organized chronologically.
Sometimes he waxes eloquent, but occasionally he will begin with “This must be necessarily brief.”
Such is the case here, and it isn’t for lack of something to say. But it is hard to find the thing to say and then unpack it properly when you are — as I am — several feet under the weather. But I digress.
Bessie Coleman wanted to be a pilot, but in the early 1900’s there were no African-American women holding the credentials to fly. With the help of others she made it to the final stage — flight school in France.
On June 15, 1921, she became the first Black person to earn an international pilot’s license. She was 29, and because she got in the game, she changed one part of the world for tens of thousands of future pilots.
One of the best known “get in the game” quotes is from Teddy Roosevelt. This particular paragraph is often chosen:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
This is often called “the man in the arena” speech, appropriately.
Are you in the arena, or are you simply a spectator?
Mr. Roosevelt is one of very few men who won both the Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize. He did it by being in the arena.
You — and me, too
A few days ago, two others and I flew from Phoenix to Dallas and back in one day. We had lunch and meetings in between.
On the flight back I sat next to a young man who was very smart but had some social-skill challenges. But at some point I consciously thought, “Here is an opportunity to do good.”
So I continued to talk, focusing hard on his words so I would get it right. It was a lot of work, and I probably missed things, but I was in the arena trying to do good.
When we deplaned, he stopped, turned toward me, extended his hand (which I shook) and then gave me a great big bear hug. Disengaging he said, “That is the best conversation I’ve ever had on a plane.” Then he left.
I was worn out, but it was good to have been in the arena.
You can do that too. It isn’t always fun, but it is always good to be in the arena.
And it is a great way to do good.
Do good… it’s in you!