This week's story is inspired by own annoying habit of thinking the worst, at times... Here's hoping I can be more like Will!
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What's The Worst That Could Happen?!
Will was a worrier. He didn't mean to be, but he was. He stressed about school, he fretted over his friends and he was even tense about television shows. Will was forever panicking that his best wasn't good enough, or that something bad might happen. It made him sad and tired.
One day, Will's dad had some exciting news. "Guess what?! Your Uncle Brian is coming to stay!"
Will was over the moon. Uncle Brian was his dad's brother, but he'd lived in Australia for nearly ten years, so Will hadn't seen him for a long time. Of course, once the excitement wore off, Will had a lot to worry about.
Would Uncle Brian remember him? Would his plane be on time? What if a big, poisonous spider crawled into Uncle Brian's suitcase and came with him?! Will had heard about scary spiders in Australia and he worried about them a lot, even though Australia was miles away.
Finally, the day Uncle Brian was due to arrive dawned at last. Will and his whole family headed to the airport to pick him up. And to Will's delight, Uncle Brian's plane was on time, he remembered Will and had even brought him a present and there were definitely no spiders in his suitcase. Everything was going well.
Uncle Brian was tired, but he was hungry, too. So, the family decided to go out for dinner. Going out for dinner was one of the many things that worried Will; what if he didn't like the food? But Uncle Brian was so cheerful about the whole thing that Will forced a smile and went along with everyone else.
At the restaurant, Will's younger sister Beth ordered something she'd never tried before. Will's older brother Rob ordered the same thing as Uncle Brian - a steak. Will did what he always did; he ordered a bowl of chips. He knew he liked those. But, to Will's surprise, his Uncle Brian looked at him and frowned: "You can't just have chips, surely? You'll be hungry! Why don't you at least have a burger with them?"
Will shifted uncomfortably in his seat and shook his head.
A waiter came along and gave Uncle Brian and Rob steak knives. Straight away, Will started to worry. Those knives looked very sharp. What if they cut themselves? Uncle Brian noticed the way Will was staring and asked if he was okay. Will blushed and looked away. He heard his dad explain: "Will worries a lot..."
Uncle Brian frowned at Will. "Are you worried about dinner? What's the worst that could happen?"
Will stared at his knife and fork and muttered: "What if I don't like something? What if I get food poisoning? What if you cut off your finger with that steak knife and we all have to go to hospital?"
And so, when everyone tucked into their delicious dinners, Will was left picking at his small bowl of chips. And he was still hungry, afterwards.
When they all got home, Rob and Beth wanted to show Uncle Brian the tricks they'd been learning on their skateboards. Will had a skateboard, too, but he decided not to go on it. Uncle Brian gave him a look. "Aren't you going to go on your skateboard, mate? What's the worst that could happen?"
Will folded his arms and sighed. "I could fall and break a leg, or bang my head and lose my memory, or get hit by a car." He shook his head and trudged back into the house.
Before bed, Rob told Uncle Brian all about a football match he'd played in at school. He'd scored three goals. "Do you play in any teams?" Uncle Brian asked Will.
Will blushed and shook his head. "I can't..." He began.
"Why not?" Uncle Brian asked. "What's the worst that could happen?"
Will shuddered. "I might miss a goal and the crowd will boo me. Or, I could fall over and everyone would laugh." He said goodnight to everyone and went to bed, early.
Later that night, Will lay in bed, staring into the blackness of his bedroom. He couldn't sleep. He was too worried. What if Uncle Brian didn't like him as much as he liked Rob and Beth? Will sighed. His tummy was rumbling, too. He wanted to sneak downstairs for a midnight snack, but he was worried he'd wake Uncle Brian up; he was sleeping on the sofa in the lounge, after all. Besides, it was dark and Will was scared that there might be a burglar or a monster, lurking somewhere in the gloom.
After a while, however, hunger got the better of Will and he crept down the stairs. When he reached the bottom, he was surprised to see that the kitchen light was on. He tip-toed towards the door and saw Uncle Brian, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a mug of hot chocolate. "Hello, Will. What are you doing up?"
Will stuck out his lower lip. "I'm hungry," he confessed.
"I thought you might be," Uncle Brian replied. "Would you like some hot chocolate and a cookie?"
Will nodded, as Uncle Brian poured the drink and passed him the biscuit tin. "Why are you awake?"
Uncle Brian smiled. "I was too worried to sleep."
Will's eyes almost popped out of his head. He couldn't believe that someone as confident as Uncle Brian ever worried about anything! "You were worried?!"
"Everyone gets worried, sometimes," Uncle Brian said. "The trick is to only worry about the important stuff. That's why I always ask 'what's the worst that could happen?' Because more often than not, the worst thing isn't going to happen and in a lot of cases, even if it did, it wouldn't be anywhere near as bad as we think. For example, were you worried about getting out of bed and coming downstairs in the dark?"
Will bobbed his head. "I was scared there might be a burglar."
"But you came down here in the dark anyway," Uncle Brian reminded him. "Because deep down, I think you knew that there wasn't anything nasty. And now, you've got a delicious mug of hot chocolate and something to eat. I bet you feel better, don't you?"
"I do, yeah..."
"Well, just think how you'd feel if you'd let those worries stop you from coming down here," Uncle Brian went on. "You'd still be up in your bed, with your tummy hurting because you're hungry and you'd be tossing and turning and then you'd be tired tomorrow, wouldn't you?" He smiled at Will. "If meeting a burglar was the very worst thing that could have happened, I think you knew that it was pretty unlikely. And you didn't let that fear stand in the way of your midnight snack!"
Will sighed. "But I do worry about stuff and it does stop me from doing things..."
"I know," Uncle Brian replied. "It stopped you from eating a nice dinner, earlier. It stopped you from showing me your skateboard tricks and it's stopping you from joining your school football team. I think you're so busy thinking about the worst that could happen, that you're not thinking about the best. What if you discovered a food you absolutely love? What if you'd learned a trick that Rob and Beth couldn't do? What if you joined the team and scored the best goal anyone's ever seen?!"
"But those things aren't very likely..." Will began.
"Is it really likely that the worst will happen?" Uncle Brian asked. "I think you've proved to yourself that you can face your worries head-on, just by coming downstairs in the dark, even though the idea scared you. Having doubts and being cautious about stuff isn't necessarily bad; it's what keeps us from doing things that are dangerous, after all. But you need to pick what you worry about. If you're sweating over the small stuff, then you're missing out on a whole heap of good things."
For the first time ever, Will began to understand that he was worrying too much. He felt a strange lightness, as though his feet weren't entirely on the floor. He felt happier than he had in ages. Uncle Brian was right and Will was tired of missing out. "I've never tried peanut butter," he announced, suddenly. "I've always worried that I might be allergic and I'd get ill." He rushed to the cupboard and pulled out a jar. "Shall I try it?"
"Only if you want to," Uncle Brian replied.
Will grabbed a spoon and scooped out a very small amount of peanut butter. He popped it in his mouth and grinned: "Delicious!"
Suddenly, Will flung his arms around Uncle Brian's neck and hugged him tight. "Thank you, Uncle," he whispered. Will let out a loud yawn. "I think I need to go back to bed, though." He padded to the door and then turned at the last minute. "Hey, Uncle Brian? I never asked you what you were worried about?"
Uncle Brian smiled. "Never you mind," he told Will. And as Will disappeared up the stairs, Brian took a slurp of his hot chocolate. "I think he's going to be okay from now on. No need to worry about Will."
And he went to bed, to sleep a worry-less sleep. Just like Will.