Failure is just a word
`What if I fail?,` the teenager asked through his curly, golden hair that fell around his face and shoulders, like flour being poured into a bowl too small to receive it.
`Failure is just a word, Tom,` the Cardman replied, feeling cold in the wind that blew moderately across the Cathedral square. `You cannot do better than your best,` he added.
`But … what if my best is not good enough?,` Tom continued in this negative vein. Ever since he was told by his parents that his elder brother , Ian, was far more clever than him, he had considered his best was never good enough. Ian was the `blu-eyed boy` of the family – a law student at Oxford, soon to graduate. Tom, now at college in Truro, had been moderately successful with his school exams, but even that was not good enough for his parents. He had tried his best, but their expectations were higher.
`I can see you don`t like exams,` the Cardman said with a smile. `I suppose it`s not knowing exactly what will be asked. The uncertainty of it all. You`ve got to revise, but don`t overdo it. Of course, that`ll be difficult because you`ll be telling yourself that the questions set for you will be the very ones you`ve not revised enough. Relax a little, if you can.`
`But, I have this problem,` Tom responded, earnestly, `I read through page after page and, afterwards, can`t remember what I`ve read.`
`That`s because you`re forcing yourself, too much. When you get to that point, you need to stop and then read just a little at a time – maybe even twice over. Then, no more – until the next day. A little at a time, Tom; that`s what I would do.`
`Thanks a lot, that really helps,` Tom replied, enthusiastically. He liked the idea of doing a little less, not that he would have ever allowed himself to do so. But this `man with the cards` had given him permission.
`You know, Tom, with the general election coming up this week, we have been hearing, over and again, the different parties` manifestos on health matters, education, work prospects for the young, pensions for the old, and so on. They have to give us a complete picture as to how they would govern, should they be elected. It`s like setting out a full programme for life itself. Try not to be like them. Don`t cross all the t`s; leave room for spontaneity – for change; for creativity, and, above all, give yourself space for God to work in and with you.
`So, are you telling me I need to be a little freer in my outlook on life?`
`Yes, Tom,` the Cardman grinned.
`I need to loosen up a little?`
`Yes. Just a little.`
`And let God in?` Tom added.
`Absolutely right.` The Cardman saw the signs of relief painted across Tom`s face. `I reckon you`re going to do well in your exams, Tom. But don`t let anyone try to convince you that your best is not good enough.`
`Thank you again.` He maturely shook the Cardman`s hand as he left the square; and thought about his wise words. He felt relaxed and ready to face whatever the examiners, or his parents, would throw at him. The `man with the cards` had made him feel he mattered. Oddly, he hadn`t intended to speak with anyone about his worries. His parents` expectations were a closely guarded secret, but this man seemed to know already, without Tom mentioning it.
As he walked off towards Waterstones, Tom asked himself, what is failure, anyway? It`s just a word.