The Bravest Thing
BY KELLY SWAN | October 17, 2022
Earlier this year, I sat down with a book my mom had left at my house. I’d let it gather dust for a few months, distracted by the chaos of life with four children and my perpetual quest, in typical oldest child fashion, to just get things done, without a pause to read a book, take a break, or—God forbid—ask for help.
Finally, in a moment of feeling overwhelmed by life’s turbulence, and isolated by my own obsession with self-reliance, the dusty book—Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse—caught my eye. I picked it up, opened it to a random page, and found this line: “‘What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?’ asked the boy. ‘Help,’ said the horse.”
Ah, yes. Help.
While yesterday’s readings are all about justice, they’re also squarely focused on help—a curious connection. Moses needed Aaron and Hur’s help to sustain his strength. The psalmist reminds us that our “help comes from the Lord.” The gospel focuses on the necessity of relying upon God’s help and graciousness.
And truly, through the storms of my personal life, and in my justice work, “help” has been an essential word. We are not made to walk through life—or to walk the path of justice—alone. In our culture that often isolates us from one another and makes autonomy and self-reliance an idol, “help” is quite brave. It leads us to interconnectedness, to community, to love. It invites others to help us see the path forward, one step at a time toward the world we wish to live in—one that is deeper, kinder, and more just for each of us.
As I read the rest of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, a second passage captured my heart: “‘Sometimes I feel lost,’ said the boy. ‘Me too,’ said the mole, ‘but we love you, and love brings you home.’”
And that is where “help” can lead us—to God’s love, to the love of friendship and community, to home—the world we dream of as people of faith and justice.
Kelly Swan has worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016, first as communications director, and now as director of advancement. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.
That author wrote an inspiring book. How we can be love in how we speak to one another, treat one another with mercy and compassion and dare to live in this world with heart peace. Thank you for a book that the world needs so much…right now .
Fantastic book. The world should read it.
Last evening after Mass, a friend invited me for coffee. It felt so good to be offered God’s love through this person. Earlier in the day, I spent some time with a person who wants to embrace the Catholic faith. We had some difficulties as the person has a large service dog and will bring the dog to Church during subsequential meetings. I am also offering her a sense of belonging to the Church as that is so important to establish a connection to the Church and love for her. I thought of how constantly God offers each one of us love as we live in His presence. Going back to being offered coffee, we talked about the Scriptures of the day and the importance of having the Lord in the equation for the rest of the week. This was a sacred time and filled me with the peace that Kelly talks about. Thanks for bringing your words to us for reflection..
Thanks, Kelly, for your reflection. I love how certain things (in your case, your mom’s book) act as a catalyst for further pondering…if only we allow them to do so. Such is the life of a person of faith, taking the time to recognize God’s gifts to us given in all things and in all times.
Kelly – At 72 years old, I FINALLY heard the reading from Exodus, 17: 8-31; I know I have listened to this reading many times. However it took our Parochial Vicar’s homily to place it in the right context. The MIRACLE occurred because of three influences: God (faith and prayer), friends and action on my part. And Kelly, I am the eldest of three…and like you, I am learning not to always try to always be the D-I-Y kid. Thank you.
What a nice, peaceful message that holds such truth here in your “article.” Sometimes I feel I want to watch for someone who might be needing help, attention, feeling left out. But I also sometimes feel unworthy of that same help I could use. I think I need to look this book up as it seems to handle the topic of being there for/with others so kindly. God is our home and in our home.
Your story is inspiring! The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is filled with simple wisdom. One of my favorites – thanks so much for posting.
I, too, love this “simple” yet profound book. I have shared it many times with others. Love does truly bring you home!
Thanks. Indeed life is also about interconnections. United we stand – divided we fall. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse are contributing in their own way for a sustainable life on Planet Earth, our Common Home.
Love in action is the reason for us to be here on planet earth. Those of us who live alone have to find ways to keep our love banks full. To take time out to be still and to truly be present with our friends.