When I was in elementary school, I was a high-jumper. Yeah, I’m just a shorty, but my highest accomplishment was 5th in the city of Hamilton for my age. I feel pretty good about that. But there was always a higher bar, and when you missed, you often landed on the bar. And it wasn’t a soft landing. In the time since, many of the bars I’ve set for myself have been similarly hard landings when I didn’t quite get there. In my work, we speak often of a quality bar. But I’ve been thinking lately about whether the bars I set for myself are actually the right bars.
When I was in high school, the King of the Douchebags got an opportunity to do something because he fooled our school admins to believing that he was a kind and generous person. He wasn’t. That really, really chapped my ass. I know that I also have machinations going on in the background sometimes that are not as… well… pure as they appear. I always say that I’m really not as good of a person as people think I am. They think I’m kidding. Still, there’s a moral code that I try to adhere to. And I am disappointed when others do not subscribe to the “treat others as you want to be treated” and “If you don’t want people to think you’re an ass, don’t act like an ass” codes of conduct.
At Connor’s grade 12 graduation, he got two awards: One for being someone who works to make the world a better place, and the other a Catholic leadership and Christian values award. Child doesn’t understand why people around him see him this way. He sees the bar, and doesn’t think he measures up to it. But others think he does, and really, they always have.
Many years ago, Child and I attended a tiny little church in McDonald’s Corners. St. Columbkill. If it was fully packed, it seated maybe 60 people. Connor was the single altar server. White robed and Mohawk coiffed. And he took his service seriously. As someone taught him, he was starting to teach someone else. Behind the tiny church was a cemetery, and right at the back of the cemetery property there was a statue of the BVM. After mass every week, Connor used to like going out there and touching the statue. It didn’t matter that the paint was peeling on her blue robes or her rosebud mouth. Connor loved that statue. The priest, Father Mark, thought that perhaps a religious vocation was stirring in him, as we watched him reverently touching Mary’s faded cowl and cape.
When he was a wee lad, his friends’ mothers always said that he had such great manners and was a great influence on their unruly kids. I was always a little unnerved that Please and Thank Yous were seen as remarkable behaviour, rather than minimum acceptable, but there it is. Even at cadets he’s gotten a Leadership by Example award (and the one he’s most proud of, of the 5 he’s received).
At his grade 8 graduation, Connor received a Christian Leadership award. By then he had already forged a friendship with the administrator of St. Clements – Father Phil Sherlock. I’m not sure who got more out of that friendship. Each had lovely things to say about the other. Father Phil also felt that there was a quiet faith in Connor, and encouraged him to consider a religious vocation. Connor certainly has a moral code, and he also runs the gamut from annoyed to disappointed to furious when people don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Just like me.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, indeed.
After getting his two awards at his graduation last month, he said “Maybe I do have a religious vocation in here somewhere. But I feel like I’m more Dr. Bob [his chaplain] than priest.” We talked about what service meant, and how being recognized for making the world a better place certainly can mean many things. When I do the Spring Cleaning of My Soul project, I think hard about how I’m falling down on the job of doing just that – how do I make the world a better place?
Recently, bosslady at DayJob served her last day, and she gave me a card that expressed thanks for the perceived good things I brought to the team, and to her in particular. I have several of these, from managers who have moved on to other opportunities, or to send me off when I moved on. I am always flattered as they are always lovely sentiments, and I felt the way Connor does – of all the snarky and smug things I say and do, there are gentle and gracious and exemplary things that float to the top and others notice.
Maybe we don’t have all y’all fooled after all.
When I was in university, the English 100 exam was a whole pile of exerpts from the hundreds of things we had read during the course. Some things you read stick with you, others, notsomuch. Some still stick with me. One is “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for” (Robert Browning)*.
*Lookitmeeee! Taking my Artium Baccalaureate out for a spin!
Aim high. It’s always good to have something to chase.