I was in Navy Boot Camp in San Diego. In case you’ve never been in boot camp, all personnel are grouped into companies, headed by an experienced Navy man. This person is assigned to this duty just as he would be to a ship. In other words, they have no particular experience in leading recruits, they are simply stationed at this base. It is considered good duty for them since they’re not on a ship and can be home every night.
Most every hour is accounted for in boot camp so, in the evening, after all work is done, the free time before lights out is precious.
As young men often do, we were challenging each other in games of speed and dexterity. In this case I had just been playing a game where two guys hold their hands out toward each other, one set hands up, the other hands down. The hands are touching each other, one on top the other on bottom.
The challenge is for the one on bottom, hands facing upwards, to quickly flip his hand or hands over and slap the other’s hands before he can move them out of his reach. I thought I was pretty good at this game. I thought I was.
Just as I finished with a guy, taking a win, another guy in our company, an Asian, asked if I wanted to play with him. Yep! I was in for a shock, embarrassment, humiliation and pain.
I don’t remember his name now but we were shipmates (before ever sailing on a ship), buddies of a sort. I started with hands on the bottom. The very first attempt at smacking his hand was missed. I was stunned. I hadn’t come close. He was lightning fast.
I was sort of worried but thought I could out maneuver him soon. Wrong. It was as though I was living in a slow motion film and he was in a super fast one. However, he did miss before too long which encouraged me. I should have just walked away.
As we began the next series, he was a blur. Time after time, he smacked the tops of my hands. Over and over, while smiling and even telling me which hand he would use! I was imobile. Frozen. Of course my mind was telling me I was a loser but dare not quit.
By this time, there was a crowd watching him beat the life out of the tops of my hands. They were red and swollen now. Guys were now imploring me to quit. They could see how swollen and red my hands were. Too proud. I couldn’t quit.
Finally, he quit. He said he’d had enough. I don’t remember if I spoke or not but I was in a great deal of pain. For the first time, I wondered if I might have jeopardized my ability to use my hands tomorrow. That sent shivers down my spine.
I’m not sure if I learned anything from this beating but I hope so. I was able to use my hands the next day so the Company Commander didn’t have to reprimand me.
My other buddies checked with me in the morning to make sure I was ok. Seeing I was, they began to rib me and make jokes for some time. One guy nicknamed me Speedy!
I’m not certain if I did learn from that bizarre incident but later in life, there were times when I was fighting with my pride and it seemed that God brought that beating back to mind, sort of reminding me that pride is a devastating state of mind. Oh, and by the way, there is a Bible verse that says, “God resists the proud but draws close to the humble.”
(c) David Nelson