Here’s a story that makes me want to be a better person. See what it does for you.
Jeanine and I were having breakfast with old friends and their eighteen-year-old son. The son was showing us his high school yearbook. He had been the editor, and it was quite impressive. There were great photos – he is a gifted photographer, and lots of them were his – and the layouts were creatively done. Really, what do I know about yearbooks, but I thought it was fantastic.
Apparently it had been a challenging job. The faculty advisor was new and didn’t know much about yearbooks. There were few other students who had worked on the yearbook before, and fewer still who were reliable and would actually do what they said they would. So a lot fell on his shoulders, even negotiating and signing the contract with the publisher. He learned a lot though, and was proud and glad he had done it.
“Will you tell them about the senior superlatives?” the dad asked, and the son dropped his head slowly left to right and grunted out a blend of “aaaaaaah” and “uuuuuuh” that said he’d rather not.
“He told us this story but made us promise not to tell anybody. Nobody at school knows.” He looked at his son. “But you should tell Russell and Jeanine.”
So the son sighed, took an inhale, and began.
“So you know how they do these senior superlative things. Best whatever. Most likely to blahblahblah.”
“So the day we do those, the person supposed to help me count the votes doesn’t show up —“
“This is a theme.”
“Yeah. So anyway, it’s just me, and I’m counting, and then . . . .” He paused. “Aaaaah, and then, I win like five of them.”
“Yeah, so then I’m like –“
“Wait. What five did you win?”
“Aaaah. Most creative, best personality. I don’t know. Some others. But I’m thinking, ‘This is bad. What am I gonna do?’ And so what I did, I picked the one I thought nobody else would want, and I gave that one to me.”
“You were voted worst driver?”
“I had a wreck at school. It’s a long story.”
“And the kid who got most creative, he’s an immigrant, he’s this awesome artist but he’s pretty shy and not all that known, you know? So it was just great that he got that.”
“No. You wow. Thank you for telling me that story.”
What do we call that? When a person does something like that and doesn’t want anybody to know? What’s the word for the quality of human spirit it shows? Goodness? Generosity? Humility? Magnanimity? Kenosis? (Google it.) Selflessness? Heartmoreness?
And what do we call the way it affects us to hear about it? Inspired? Amazed? Humbled? Touched? Changed?
Let me know. Or be like this young man. And don’t.