I've thought back to the Newberry-winning historical novel Carry on Mr. Bowditch many times over the last few years. I remembered it as being a great story, a fictionalized juvenile biography of Nathaniel Bowditch, and full of the adventure of his 1700's sea voyages. His life was marked by childhood trauma and bitter disappointments, which he heroically learned to overcome. Having a quick mind for mathematics and navigation opened the way for him to pursue his dreams and "follow the stars," going to sea. The book he wrote on navigation is famous in Maritime history, and used to this day.
However, the thing that kept playing in my mind so much that I had to finally take the book from my shelf and look it up, had to do with a character lesson he learned. Since Nat was brilliant and hard working, he learned several languages and became accomplished in many skills. His mental quickness made him impatient with others. Once he impatiently exploded at his good friend Elizabeth, hurting her deeply. Here is her response that changed him in this prideful area:
" I'm just like a chair you stumble over in the dark," Elizabeth said. "It isn't the chair's fault, but you kick it anyhow."
Nat blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"Your brain. It's too fast. So you stumble on other people's dumbness. And - you want to kick something."
Nat felt his face get hot. "But I shouldn't."
Elizabeth agreed. "No, you shouldn't, because even if people are dumb, they aren't chairs, are they? They do have feelings."
Nat never forgot the lesson he learned from Elizabeth. While at sea, he patiently taught navigation to uneducated seamen, helping them to raise their job positions.
So many times I have wanted to show this illustration to a young person. Now I have it at my fingertips!
One of these days I'm going to log character lessons like this from lots of good books. Don't you think that would be a great reference to have?
Carry on Mr. Bowditch...a worthwhile, memorable read full of history and moral lessons. You're welcome to borrow my copy!