An old man is teaching his grandson about life

An old man is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me”, he explains to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, resentment and ego.

The other is good – he’s joy, peace, love, hope, determination, humility, fortitude, compassion and truth.

The same fight is going on inside you – and it’s going on inside every other person too.”

The boy thinks about it for a minute and then asks his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man smiles and replies simply, “The one you feed.”
The story is actually an old Cherokee parable, just as relevant today as when the Cherokee, one of the largest Native American tribes, settled in the south-east of the United States thousands of years ago.

As this half-term progresses, I would like you to consider which version of yourself you can develop.

Part of this development is how you respond to socially unacceptable behaviour. From time to time, inside and outside of school, you will witness actions that contradict our values. How you react says so much about your own character.

The words of Comenius that I used during the Remembrance Service are equally relevant here: you will remember the part that states “We are all citizens of one world. We are all of one blood.”

The New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan would be an obvious choice for this assembly. Instead, I’d like to tell you the story of one of the greatest sportsmen in modern history.

Jackie Robinson was born in 1919 in the Deep South of America, very close, in fact, to Cherokee land. He may well have single-handedly ended racial segregation in US sport. Indeed, his approach heavily influenced the peaceful nature of the civil rights movement.

Worthy enough to serve his country during World War Two, Robinson, on the basis of the colour of his skin, was only good enough to play professional baseball in the second class, what they then called, Negro Leagues. These were the days, of course, of segregation, when black Americans often were not permitted to use the same facilities as their white neighbours.

No Major League team had fielded a black player since 1884 until the Boston Red Sox held a trial in 1945 for Robinson. Racially abused by the club’s management, Robinson left the trial humiliated. It took the Red Sox until 1959 to integrate the team.

In some ways, the hero of this story is a man called Branch Rickey, the white general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey not only spotted Robinson’s talent but also developed his character, knowing full well that Robinson would come under intense pressure.

Played by Harrison Ford in the film 42, Rickey knew that Robinson would be abused by opponents, team-mates and fans alike. He also knew that Robinson must not be riled or retaliate or allow his own dignity to be diminished.

Rickey imagined all possible situations and rehearsed them with Robinson. He swore at him, insulted him and even swung at him. Robinson didn’t react, except to say:

“Mr Rickey, do you want a ballplayer who is afraid to fight back?”

No, Rickey told him, “I want a ballplayer with the guts not to fight back.”

“We can’t fight our way through this. There’s virtually no-one on our side. We’ll be in a tough position. We can win only if I can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman. If you’re a good man, we can make this a start in the right direction. But let me tell you, it’s going to take an awful lot of courage.”

Robinson understood. “Mr Rickey, if you want to take this gamble, I promise you there will be no incident.”

I’m not asking you to ignore racism or any other form of prejudice in the way that Robinson needed to. If you know people who hold views like that, you need to know that their views are not welcome here. The world has changed and moved on. That kind of behaviour isn’t acceptable, it isn’t normal and it must be challenged.

Racism, homophobia and misogyny are forms of bullying. As the anti-bullying team put it last Thursday, change starts with us. 

Call it out. You mustn’t accept it as part of daily life, but don’t let them win by losing your temper or making you contradict your values or even break the law yourself.

People whose brains and hearts are tainted by discrimination have allowed the evil and uneducated wolf to win. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Thought for the day:

Famous words of Martin Niemoller from 1946:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

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