Doing the Right Thing in the Face of Wrong;
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to the brilliant folks of SWACUHO, (South West Association of College and University Housing Officers) these are the folks who handle everything that has anything to do with campus housing. They can tell you all about building maintenance while identifying an undiagnosed learning disability. If you have college aged children or ever will, it behooves you (I love that word) to get to know someone who has this job; they are the eyes and ears of a campus.
While at this event in College Station, Texas, a beautiful young seeker asked a most important question; “How do you find the strength to keep doing the right thing in the face of wrong?
I took a deep breath and smiled, because I knew that her answer would require my total being.
“This is The practice.” I told her. I went on to explain that no one gets it right every day or all of the time. (As I said it, I could see Jesus flipping tables in the temple.) I told her that when someone has wronged me I get still and calm. I breathe, smile and then see the headline that would appear if I lost my cool. “Popular lecturer and writer stabs passenger on plane with pencil for taking up too much room.”
If you were to ask any of those folks who one day suddenly snapped, you will see that it was never the one incident that caused them to do so; it was a series of maddening events that built up over time. After the woman and the audience laughed about the headline, I went on to share the real secret.
I told them to try to find it within themselves to wish the other person well; to give them joy and energy, because this conflict is about a struggle for power. I told the woman and the audience that this was a daily practice and that you don’t always get it right, but you will always have another chance do so to.
Later that day while on my way home, I had my chance to do so and I enaged in The Practice.
I landed in Atlanta a bit earlier than expected so I decided to try to catch the earlier flight home. When you travel a great deal, you know things that average travelers do not; like where all of the clean bathrooms are, the names of gate agents in towns where you don’t live and you know the times and flight numbers of every plane that is heading to your home town.
I found out where the earlier flight was boarding and started the run to the other end of the terminal. While in motion, I called the airline’s customer service center to ask them to get me on the flight. Now, I should to tell you that when you travel a gagillion miles like I do, you get a few perks. When I call in on my designated number, a representative answers immediately and calls me by name. They have already looked at my record and know where I am and very often already know what I might want.
“Hello Dr. Berry,” the cheerful woman said. “Wow, we got you in early, do you think you can make it down to the end of the terminal while I get you on the earlier flight.” She was good.
Within seconds of calling, I was on the flight but when I got to the gate, I got to engage in The Practice. The gate agent belligerently told me to step aside, that she would handle me after she had boarded everyone else on the flight.
I wondered what I had done wrong. I had stood in line, waited to be served and had smiled at her. I tried to tell her that I was still on the phone with customer care agent, but she didn’t care. She boarded everyone and then began to board the non-revs; these are people who are flying with a buddy pass; in other words, they did not pay, as in non-revenue. The customer care agent was still on the phone with me and in disbelief; “Go back and tell her that you have a seat in first class, let her know that you have earned elite status and are one of our best customers.” I told the woman that I also had a PhD but that it didn’t even impress my own children.
We laughed a bit and I told her that it would be fine; I’d wait or get back on the later flight. I stood and waited and the woman gave me another one of her “You ain’t getting on this plane looks.” I began to give her energy and to wish her well. I smiled at her and sang to myself. I was tired and wanted to be home but I began to see that this woman felt the same way.
The more joy I sent her, the more I could imagine the day she’d had. As I kept my peace another gate agent came from across the airport and took my ticket. He looked up my record and told the woman to give me my seat. She actually told him that I needed to wait until everyone else was on the plane. He looked at her and said” No she does not she should have been on that plane.”
The woman snatched the ticket and shoved the first class boarding pass at me. I asked for her name intending to write a letter of complaint. She begrudgingly told me and rolled her eyes and I smiled and thanked her for her assistance. “I appreciate your help.” I said and I surprised myself when I could feel that I meant it.
I sat on the plane and wrote down the name and I began to pray for her. I remembered what I told the audience earlier; that forgiveness literally means that you forgo the need for revenge or restitution. So I let go of a need to “get back at her” and when I did, I felt that peace that surpasses understanding.
Here is the Practice:
· Take a deep breath and smile
· See the headline (You can skip this one if you’d like)
· End the battle for control by giving in and sending energy to the other person
· Say a prayer, think a kind thought and see the opponent’s pain
· Be at peace and see the battle in the scheme of things.
If just one person where you live and work exercises the practice each day, you will change the energy in that place forever.
Be you, be well, be The Practice
Bertice Berry, PhD