Our life is usually free from extraordinary thrills. It gets into a groove. But now and then something happens that startles us. It may spell danger or arouse laughter. It may be a hair-breadth escape, or a glorious adventure or only a flash of novelty in a drab world of commonplace things. But whatever it is, it gives us a moment of real excitement. And it lives it lives in the memory; we recall it now and again and relate it in later years to arouse the astonishment or admiration of our listeners.
Such an incident happened in my life, and quite unexpectedly. It brought me into the limelight for a brief while but the memory of it will remain forever. If you analyze it philosophically, it was of course nothing much. But for me, it was joy indeed; perhaps because I had never tasted popular applause before; perhaps because it satisfied an inner desire for it that had all unknown to me, remained hidden in my mind. But let me say as my excuse that to a pigmy a molehill, after all, is a mountain. However, let describe it without further beating about the bush.
The incident took place, believe it or not, on the playground. I was something of a football player, but I had never been a good player, far less a great one. I played for the mere physical joy that I got out of the game, but I played with a will, and put my whole heart into the game. The result was that, though I had plenty of energy and enthusiasm, I was never picked for my college team. Let me confess candidly that this was only because there was another player in the same position who happened to be much better than myself. I considered myself the better sportsman, but he was certainly the greater player. And I competitive match, that counts. So I never grumbled or complained. Milton said, ‘they also serve who only stand and wait’. I was content to wait and bide my time.
And at last my patience was rewarded. It was for me the day of all days. Our team had shot up into the final and was meeting its rival. Our star-player sent word at the last moment that he was ill and he could not take the field. Imagine the consternation in the college camp! The thought that the game was as good as lost, and so also, I confess, did I for this player was our trump-card: that is what everybody always said. However, something had to be done, and that something had to be – Myself! The captain called me up almost apologetically for having failed to recognize my greatness before, and – there I was, kit and all, on the playground, greeted by the cheers of my friends, and a few jeers from those who had little faith in my prowess.
I can tell you that I played like a demon. I was here, there and everywhere, – now leading the attack, now falling back to help the defense. It was indeed a thrilling moment in my life. For a time, I was the center of all attention, the object of universal applause, and “the observed of all observers”. And, believe it or not, it was I who put in the winning goal. Suddenly one of our wing-men sent in a perfect center and the ball landed almost at my feet. It begged to be banged into the goal, – and bang it I did, straight past the goalkeeper into the far corner of the net. It marked the climes of a glorious day. A whirl of applause eddied round and round the field. Those who came to scoff now remained to praise. I was the hero, the savior of my side in a crisis. I enjoyed my popularity while it lasted and even now I look back on the episode with unmixed pleasure and satisfaction.
Perhaps you are smiling at all this. Perhaps you had expected me to tell you of a big-game hunt, or a spectacular act of rescues or some often to be got out of quite commonplace incidents.