It had been several days since David Star Eagle had walked through the fort’s doors and gave himself up to the posse guards. The posse was satisfied with their captive and had released all the families from the schoolhouse and left the fort. Everything seemed to be “back to normal” in some ways, but for Janet and Jonas, things would never seem the same again.
Today was Sunday, and the twins were getting ready for church. “Bishop Stewart said he has planned a special meeting for today,” Jonas said to Janet as they descended the stairs from their rooms.
“Hurry, you two. We’ll be late,” their mother said as she herded them and their Pa out the door. They made the brief walk to the schoolhouse, which served as their church on Sundays, and joined the line of other families. Every person in the fort, as well as a few of the Pawnee families, were in attendance today.
“Welcome everyone,” the Bishop said, as he stood at the front of the room. “Before we begin our meeting today, I thought I should talk a little about what has happened within our community this past week. I know it has affected all of us, and I’m sure it has given us reason to stop and think about what is important to us in our lives.”
Jonas looked at his Pa. The last few days he had noticed that Pa spent an awful lot of time in prayer and sitting quietly reading the scriptures. Jonas had also been doing a lot of thinking on his own. He decided that he now understood a lot more about courage--and himself.
“We all witnessed amazing acts of charity, of courage, of selflessness, and of love,” Bishop Stewart continued. “I am so pleased, and I’m sure the Lord is also, with the behavior of this congregation in the middle of such a crisis. Our little town’s willingness to protect the lives of others and to submit to unfair treatment, out of love, is truly inspiring. And our brave little ones–they took the initiative to seek help.”
With that, he looked at Janet, Jonas, and Cory. By now, the entire fort knew the story of their plan and Jonas’ escape out of the fort. The experience had changed Cory’s behavior toward the twins, and during the last couple of days at school, he had played with Jonas as a friend, instead of as a competitor.
“But I think we can all agree that the true expression of love and courage came from David Star Eagle,” the Bishop continued. At the mention of David, the Bishop’s eyes filled with tears, and several in the congregation also began to weep.
“We will forever be indebted to him for his willingness to give his life for us. We will someday be able to thank him for his heroic act, but until then, I am sure his Heavenly Father is very much aware of him. His death was an act of cowardice on the part of the posse, and one that will stand against them for eternity. We come this day to honor the name of our Pawnee brother, David Star Eagle.”
Everyone bowed their heads for a moment of silent recognition of David’s sacrifice. Janet could hear some of the others crying, and to her surprise, found tears rolling down her own cheeks.
Then Janet felt her Pa leave his seat and walk to the front of the room. The Bishop looked at him for only a moment, and then moved to the side.
“I, um, I need to stand and say a few things in front of my family and to my Heavenly Father,” Pa began hesitantly. His voice was low and crackled with emotion, but his eyes had a determined glare that the twins hadn’t seen in months.
“I have spent so much time hating the Pawnees for what they did to me and my family that I couldn’t see the truth, and I stopped seeing the good in others,” Pa continued. “I want to apologize to my family, to my Father in Heaven, and to our Pawnee neighbors for the feelings of hate I have felt inside me.” His voice cracked, and he looked down at his hands that were busy wringing his hat round and round. He looked over at Janet and Jonas and took a deep breath.
“I thought I was brave because I continued working, and kept coming to church--and kept on living. But now--I realize that I wasn’t being brave at all. My children and David Star Eagle taught me that. There is more to being brave and having courage than just living. I now know that courage is not the absence of fear and surrender, but the presence of faith and love and forgiveness,” he continued.
With that he started to walk back to his seat. Dan Whithers, who had been standing in the back with his family, met him half way down the aisle and held out his arms to Pa.
As they embraced, Mother looked up to the ceiling and said a quiet, heart-felt prayer of thanks. She had been praying and waiting for him to feel peaceful once again and to get rid of all the hate he had held inside.
Janet watched the entire scene and realized that she was also guilty of hating and thinking she was being brave. She always thought it was Jonas who had been the one who didn’t have any courage. Now, as she watched her father sit down, she realized that she also needed to change her heart. As she was thinking about her past actions, she noticed Jonas stand. He went to the front of the room and began to speak.
“A week or so ago, the Judge told my sister and me a story about a man he said was the bravest man he had ever met. His name was Smiling Jim, and the Judge had found him face down in the dirt covered in blood after being attacked by a bear. The Judge said that he rolled Jim over and found him smiling up at him. At the time the Judge told me that story, I thought it was kind of stupid and didn’t understand why that made Jim brave. But now, I think I understand,” Jonas said, as his eyes lit up with excitement at his new found understanding.
“You see,” he continued. “I watched David Star Eagle walk right into this fort, where he knew he was going to be captured and killed. He did it with calmness and honor. As I watched him, I thought about the story the Judge told us. There are two parts to courage really. First, the Judge found Jim face down in the dirt. That means he faced the bear and fought to the end. He didn’t run away or anything. Second, when the Judge rolled him over, he was smiling. That means he wasn’t hating the bear, or angry that he had gotten hurt, or was mad at God for not saving him. He was just grateful that someone found him.”
Janet sat in shock as she listened to her brother. The Judge’s story also started to make sense to her as well. Could it be that Jonas had figured something out before her?
“Wise words for such a young boy,” the Bishop said. He came and stood by Jonas and wiped some tears away before speaking.
“Courage takes love. Love takes courage. Jonas is right–being able to live through something or face a problem is only half of the idea. We also need to fill ourselves with love and honor and gratitude–then we will be truly courageous. I think Brother Johansen here showed us that today, and I think David Star Eagle gave his life to teach it to us all.
“May we never forget that it is our Savior who showed us the greatest life of courage and love there has ever been. He faced His hardships and suffering with honor and did it with love. May we all do the same.”
With that, the Bishop signaled for Sister Stewart to lead the congregation in song.
“I’m proud of you,” Janet whispered to Jonas as he sat down next to her. “You really are a brave and courageous person.”
Jonas looked back at his sister. His voice was gentle and full of love.
“I learned from the best,” he said.