A Mouse That Roared - The Book of Amazing Stories

A Mouse That Roared

He hated the name that his missionary mother gave him at birth. As a runt fighting for a spot on the rugby fields, he figured that Henry was a sissy’s name. But it wasn’t as bad as the nickname his classmates gave him: the Mouse.

After college, the Mouse returned to China to teach chemistry at a boys’ school. When bloody civil war broke out, he went where the fighting was fiercest. His wife begged him not to go, but he was determined to go to those in greatest need. When the Japanese later invaded China, the Mouse sent his family to Canada but refused to leave his mission. It wasn’t long before he landed in a concentration camp. He was a quiet hero in that barbed-wire mission field before a brain tumor threatened his life. Winston Churchill pleaded with the Japanese to release him. But when the prisoner exchange took place, the Mouse gave up his spot to a pregnant woman. Not long after, he died in that Japanese camp.

Why was this prisoner so important that the British prime minister personally intervened for his release? Perhaps Churchill recalled a day twenty years earlier when the Mouse roared on the center stage of Olympic history. In 1924 Henry was known by his middle name, Eric. Sportswriters called him the Flying Scotsman. You might have watched his inspiring story in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire. At the Paris Olympics he won a gold medal. But a number of Olympians did that in 1924.

The Mouse made headlines for another reason: he refused to run when he discovered that the qualifying heats for his races were set for Sunday. Raised a strict Presbyterian, he believed that it was a sin to compete in athletics on the Sabbath. So the Mouse decided that standing on principle trumped running for gold. When the British Olympic committee pleaded with him to run for king and country, he refused to budge. His stand seems quaintly old-fashioned in an age where sports dominate our Sundays.

The Mouse went to church while others competed. He lost two gold medals but gained the respect of the world for his unwavering integrity. Later that week, he did win a gold medal, setting a world record that stood for a decade. Could it be that this principled stand in Paris produced a hero in China twenty years later? Maybe it was his character as much as his athletic prowess that led to a 2002 poll naming him Scotland’s most popular sports figure of all time.

Mice can roar like lions when there’s conviction in their bellies. A single mouse standing its ground has been known to stampede bull elephants. You might not agree with Henry Eric Liddell’s views on the Sabbath, but in an age of compromise his story is worth remembering. There are some principles that far outweigh gold medals. Certainly this much is true:

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14, NIV

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