One day at work years ago, I discovered that my only available exit from a room would take me smack through a conversation a teen-age boy was having with my boss. The boy looked pale and nervous. My boss seemed stiff and guarded, though obviously listening carefully. Their exchange appeared to be one that each would prefer to keep private and I held back, knowing I couldn’t just walk through the middle of that.
Though I didn’t want to eavesdrop, snippets of their conversation floated my way, things like “really sorry” and “want to make up for it”. The teen-ager was doing most of the talking.
Finally, when I peeked out, I could see that the boy’s face looked relieved. My boss’ posture had also relaxed and they finally moved off together so I never had to interrupt them.
When I saw my boss put his hand gently on the boy’s shoulder, I knew I’d witnessed one of those quietly monumental things that happen in the smallest of moments. This boy had made good on the toughest part of trustworthiness — owning up and taking responsibility for his actions. Then he’d also taken the step many never quite find the courage for: making amends.
Such trustworthiness often blossoms out of truthfulness, the foundation of every human virtue. Just as any physical structure needs a foundation, so a life of any spiritual substance must be founded on truthfulness.
To have capacity for this, however, I think we need (ongoing) training in life that helps us understand and appreciate its value. We also need to see it modeled in action. The very rarity of such trustworthiness in our culture today implies for me a considerable need for the kind of training that can polish gems like these within us from an early age.
As that teen-age boy and my boss walked away together companionably, the boy’s action, and my boss’ reception of it, radiated around them so perceptibly I could feel it. In an instant, as privileged observer, I knew that the spirit of this exchange was going to reach and affect the lives of people neither of them had even met yet. And, even more remarkably, ones they might never meet.
Those gems within us, the real wealth – the only wealth – are where all hope resides.
Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details –