Friday, April 06, 2001

If they were right, I'd agree

There's a very cool song by Kat Stevens called Father and Son. if you have ever heard it, you know it is pretty neat. The premise is that a father is singing to his son, and is very frustrated how much he has all of his flaws. But there is this one line, and it is so very cool--it goes: "From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen."

You know what, a few days ago the Dean of Student Affairs of my college (William Jewell College) died from a sudden heart attack. Let me tell you something interesting.

When I was in college I didn't get in much trouble--only because I was not caught. One time, though, I was. Somehow the school's mainframe-administrator's login account got written on the palm of my hand, and all the wrong people found out about it.

Naturally, I was to explain what I had done and, in a way, stand trial before the Dean of Student Affairs. He was unhappy, not only because my conduct was a little unbecoming, but his good friend was the technology director whose professional career may have been tarnished by my indescression. I suppose I didn't, and probably still can't convince myself of the severity of the situation, but it was. Clearly.

Two too many of my friends were accidentally associated with my activities, and this unnecessary strain on our friendships was a real problem. I began to resent the Dean of Student Affairs for his seeming exaggeration of the situation based primarily on the resulting division between some of my best friends, who were not keen with their potential punishment for something I did.

My grandfather (who passed away six months ago) was a feisty lawyer, and one of my best friends who I quickly informed of the situation and who insisted on coming with me to meet with the Dean, helping to ensure everything happened in my best interest. I was pretty lucky.

In the middle of the meeting, the Dean suddenly asked my grandfather if we could have a minute alone. My grandfather turned up his palm in agreement, and I found myself alone with the Dean, pacing from wall to wall.

He said, "Jerry, lawyers don't scare me. Your grandfather isn't doing anything I couldn't anticipate." I twisted my hands together as I listened with saucer eyes. "You know what, the facts may not hold up in a court of law, but I am the judge and jury in this matter, and there is nothing but trouble for you." My throat sent a quick signal to my brain requesting emergency fluid in the mouth! Meanwhile, he continued, "However, there's an grandfather in lobby. And it's all too clear to me, in his eyes his grandson can do no wrong." I began to blush considering the point. "And," He explained, "I'm not going to be the one to destroy that."

I frowned in confusion, but knew this was my one chance to ask the question. With a fierce blink, and a quick lick of the lips, I blurted, "My friends are clueless about this stuff, and if they get in trouble, many will lose their financial assistance." I began to crush my teeth together and paused. I tried to have a humble demeanor, but I really needed him to understand my point.

That's when he surprised me again, saying, "Being friends with you has a cash cost, thanks to this, doesn't it?" I grimaced at the though, but clearly he had gotten my point. "Let me talk to them first, Jerry, I am very unsatisfied with either outcome of this situation. Frankly, I am embarrassed for my friends involved in this also, but i can't let that vary my actions here."

Finally, he allowed all three of us involve to come up with the punishments that would suite the crime. Naturally, my friends walked away with nothing - a perfect solution, and some weird moral sense drove us to convict me to serve some community service time - regardless of my previous conviction of my own innocence.

In the end, I ended up nearly hating the Dean for putting us through the act self-judgment; I just couldn't really except that he had made the situation worse because of his friends involvement, and his own concerns for the peripheral conditions.

Then, I surprised myself. In a sudden case of conviction, I found myself massaging the steering wheel of my Ford as I drove up to campus two years after my graduation. I approached the Student Affairs office, asked for the Dean and sat down, fidgeting with the seat cushion until he saw me in. I swiveled the chair a bit to get comfortable, told him what I had been up to, and quickly got to the point.

I leaned forward, "Remember the thing?" I said, as he smiled with a face surprise and nodded. "You know, it lasted a long time, and I really built a solid hatred for you - not your office, but for you, personally." He pushed out a smiled, but still not seeing where this was going, he asked me. I answered, "Well," I said with a gulp and a flushed brow, "I'm sorry." I slouched my shoulders, waiting for comment, and the following conversation was one of mutual and genuine appreciation for each other's actions in the event across the years.

I can't tell you how my life changed after that, but it did. People were surprised to hear me speak differently about him in conversations. I began to defend him when I thought it appropriate, and refused to partake in anything that would bash his credibility or sense of right and wrong. That was a significant change in action, but even my heart was different.

Then, let me tell you how happy I was to remember the last chapter of those events when I heard he had died unexpectedly. Too many people apologize to grave stones and old photos. Thank God, I paid attention to the Spirit's nudge and sought his forgiveness while I still could. And, I can honestly say something I could not have before, "I grieve his death, and even the loss for my college."

Now, not only do I not hate anyone, I have learned that I don't even want to ever get to that point. It was an important lesson I learned. I am glad I did.

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