When I Lacked Courage in ‘The Case of The Falling Desk!’


It happened many years ago, yet, it is still fresh in my conscience and from time to time it appears on the “stage” of my mind. At the time it brought a smile to my face, but later, regret. It happened on an otherwise innocuous day during my junior year in high school. It was fifth period English class and we had a substitute for the day. You know how “well” those classes end up going. No one listens, no one cares. The poor teacher is subject to all kind of abuse! This class was no exception. The woman substitute teacher was trying her best to maintain order but as soon as she would turn her back and start writing on the board, a student would throw something at another student or even worse, a student would knock over one of the empty desks. It would make a loud crashing noise as it hit the floor. The teacher would quickly turn around but was never quick enough to catch the perpetrator. I didn’t do anything but observe the hijinks from my fellow students. Finally, with her voiced raised in frustration and anger she said, “The next person who knocks over a desk is going to be thrown out of class and will report to the principals office!

She turned and started to write something on the chalkboard. In the row next to me, starting from the front, was a couple of students, an empty desk, then another student was appeared to be sleeping, then a few more students. I watched as a friend of mine, who was seated behind the sleeping student, stretched his foot out as far as he could, around the sleeper, and push the empty desk over. As the desk began to fall he quickly got back into his seat. The desk crashed to the floor. The sound of the crash awoke the student who was sleeping so that when the teacher turned around the once slumbering classmate had his head up. I must say that I didn’t really know the name of this classmate but I do know that he had long stringy hair, looked unkempt, and appeared to be what we called back then, a “pothead”. The teacher erupted in anger and started to shout at the innocent kid. The student tried to defend himself and stated his innocence but the teacher was so frazzled by then that she was in no mood for explanations. She told him to leave the class and report to the principal’s office. He stormed out of the room pleading his innocence. it was pretty ugly, and at the moment somewhat hilarious seeing as everyone in the class knew he was innocent. It seemed that the joke was on the teacher! Still, I sat there…. and so did everyone else. No one came to his defense. Perhaps he had no friends in the class, I don’t know. I just know that after the moment passed, and I did nothing; it became less funny. And so it is, some 40 years later that I still remember the ‘case of the falling desk.’  I even remember the name of that friend of mine who knocked the desk over. More interesting is the fact that it is a memory that doesn’t reflect well on my friend’s character. More interesting is the fact that the memory doesn’t reflect well on mine. I wasn’t “standing tall” that day.

Whenever I hear the words “stand tall” I think of Gordon B. Hinckley. He said-

“Stand a little taller and work a little harder….You and I are sons and daughters of God, with something of divinity within us. Let us stand tall, my brothers and sisters. Let us live the gospel. Let us be busy in the Church. Let us learn of its doctrine. Let us feed upon its teachings. Let us grow in faith and faithfulness before the world. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Inspirational Thoughts,” Liahona, Apr 2002). To the youth he once said, ” Stand tall, do what is right, count on the Lord, and He will bless you in a wonderful way”. (youth meeting, Denver, Colorado, 14 April 1996).

I would hope that as adults we have overcome our fear of others and what they think and that we will do what we know to be right. But, the natural man is hard to overcome. It is a constant battle to “stand tall.” But it’s a battle worth waging.

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