The School of Courage

By John-Paul Flintoff

June Yang, founder of The School of Courage, invited me to the Seoul Youth Hub Conference, to run a session with young Koreans.

At the end of the session, I was astonished to be given this beautiful bouquet – not by the organisers, but by a participant, who had made the bouquet herself. I wish I could tell you her name, but she was gone before I found out.

I was SO pleased!

Then I started to worry. I could not possibly look after the flowers where I was staying. So after posing for photos and telling everybody how very happy I was, I gave the bouquet to June to take home.

But I hadn’t seen the end of those flowers.

The next day, I joined June (pictured here, centre, with others in the School of Courage team) for a challenging workshop of her own. One of the exercises involved tackling somebody who has wronged us in the past (click here for more details).

Towards the end, we were given a flower, individually wrapped in tissue paper. Our mission was to go out and give the flower to somebody. This was easier said than done.

One of my group went into a restaurant, and gave the flower in thanks to the delighted waitress and chef (pictured).

But when it was my turn to give away a flower, I struggled – and I came to see how much courage it must have taken to give me that bouquet the previous night.

Even with the delightful Veronique Cho on hand to translate, people seemed unwilling to engage with a tall Westerner bearing a rose. One young couple stopped for me, briefly, but remained tight-lipped, refused to take anything, and swiftly walked away.

Eventually I found a woman sitting on a bench. She was unwilling, initially, to take the flower: she said she was married. Veronique explained that I am married too. “He’s just being nice.” The woman agreed to take it, and to allow a photograph of the handover – but only if the camera was behind her.

What did I learn? That even to receive flowers takes courage.

Posted: October 3, 2014