The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be. Socrates
Today’s message will flow from three seemingly unrelated incidents in your author’s recent (and distant) past.
Nine years after building our current home, we began experiencing some problems with our paved deck. After getting estimates from different contractors, we settled upon one recommended mason, Mr. Rob Moore. His estimate was nowhere near the low bid, but we hired him anyway, based upon the recommendation of a knowledgeable friend.
Initially, the project didn’t seem to be going well. Mr. Moore was very specific about how the work would be completed, the exact materials that he would need to do the job, and what interventions were necessary to have the restoration completed perfectly.
I just wanted the patio fixed.
The project moved forward with meticulous care. And the more I watched Rob’s attention to detail, the more I gained respect for him and his work. To be sure, masonry is a physically demanding career. Clearly, it must be hard on the back, knees, and probably every joint in one’s body. But at the project’s completion, Rob stood back admiring his handiwork. He assured me that I would not need to contact him again in the coming years, observing, “I never get callbacks to repair what I’ve done.” And I believed him, given the pride and effort that he put into his demanding profession.
Over the past weekend, my wife and I had occasion to hire an UBER driver in New York City. She admitted that, on this day, she was working independently, hoping to earn a little more than her normal
fee by engaging a fare at curbside.
During the course of our journey to the airport, our driver Maria explained that she grew up in the Dominican Republic, had moved to America 20 years ago, and had married an American citizen. This enabled her to eventually become a U.S. citizen, proudly explaining that she had completed the citizenship classes and tasks required of her. In her less than perfect English, Maria asserted, “I pass all the tests. It was hard in English, but I did it. I follow all the rules to be a good American. Is not good when people no follow law. “ She then proudly shared pictures of her two adolescent daughters when we were stopped at a traffic signal, proclaiming proudly, “They are citizens too.”
This decent new American was working on her day off, on a Sunday, to support her family. And she was proud to be doing it in what she described as being “the right way.”
Sixty years ago, my family took a driving vacation to Mexico. In those days (and perhaps still today) car insurance was not in force while in Mexico. As a result, American drivers had to purchase time-limited car insurance that would cover their stay in our neighbor country. At the border, my father purchased such insurance.
Looking back, I don’t really know why we were driving north toward the US. border on our way home, just a few hours after the insurance had expired. Had we stayed an extra day on the trip? Had my dad purchased the incorrect number of insurance days? I don’t know.
And I certainly don’t know what two beer truck drivers were doing driving, side by side, as they came over a hill. They were heading directly at us. My dad leaned on the horn frantically, but with no effect. He swerved off the two-lane road, knocking over crude cement markers on the side of the hill like bowling pins. Dad kept our car from going over the edge, but the ’52 Oldsmobile, heavy as a Sherman tank, flipped over as we dodged the truck heading at us. Despite rolling over, neither my brother, mother, nor any of us were injured. My father sustained only some facial cuts, courtesy of the shattered windshield.
But the Olds was totaled. My dad and I rode to the police station in the truck of a local farmer who was the first to arrive at the scene. The sympathetic farmer, angered at the offending truck drivers, kept labeling them “sons of beetches, sons of beetches.” In the police station, while documenting the accident in a report, the officer asked my dad if he had purchased the necessary car insurance. My father said that he had when we entered the country, but that it had expired a few hours earlier. The officer, as he filled out the accident report, stated, “Mr. Farrar, I can fill in any time you say about when the accident occurred. It makes no difference to me.” But my father repeated the exact time of the incident, knowing that the accident would not be covered by the temporary insurance.
Someone once said that a person’s character is defined by how he/she acts when no one is looking. My dad proved this to me that day.
So what is the point regarding these three events in my life? What is today’s message? What do a skilled masonry artisan, an NYC UBER driver, and my father have in common?
Simply this: All three did the right thing as they lived their lives. Honorably. We should all strive to imitate the model of Rob Moore, Maria, and Vincent David Farrar.
You will feel better about yourself if you do.
Show me the person you honor, and I will know what kind of person you are. Thomas Carlyle