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How To Be True To You

How To Be True To You

――Give wisely and carry a big stick

I knew a man, a very tall and spare and gentle man, for several years before I found out that he visited prisoners in our county jail, week in and week out for decades. He would write letters for them, carry messages, fetch clothing or books. But mainly he just offered himself. He didn’t preach to them, didn’t pick and choose between the likable and the nasty, didn’t look for any return on his kindness. All that mattered was that they were in trouble.

Why did he spend time with out-casts when he could have been golfing or watching TV? “I go in case everyone else has given up on them,” he told me once. “I never give up.”

Never giving up is a trait we honor in athletes, in soldiers, in survivors of disaster, in patients recovering from severe injuries. If you struggle bravely against overwhelming odds, you’re liable to end up on the evening news. But in less flashy, less news-worthy FOR Ms, fidelity to a mission or a person or an occupation shows up in countless lives all around us.

It shows up in parents who will not quit loving their daughter even after she dyes her hair purple and tattoos her belly and runs off with a rock band. It shows up in couples who choose to mend their marriages instead of filing for divorce. It shows up in volunteers at the hospital or library or women’s shelter or soup kitchen. It shows up in unsung people everywhere who do their jobs well, not because the supervisor is watching or because they are paid gobs of money but because they know their work matters.

When my son Jesse was in sixth grade, his teacher was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told the children about the disease, about the surgery and therapy, and about her hopes for recovery. Jesse came home deeply impressed that she had trusted them with her news. She could have stayed home for the rest of the year. On mastectomy healed, she began going in to school one afternoon a week, then two, then a full day, then two days and three.

When a parent worried aloud that she might be risking her health for the sake of the children, the teacher scoffed, “Oh, heavens, no! They’re my best medicine.” Besides, these children would only be in sixth grade once, she said, and she meant to help them all she could while she had the chance.

The therapy must have worked, because ten years later she’s going strong. When I see her around town, she always asks about Jesse. Is he still so funny, so bright, so excited about learning? Yes, he is, I tell her, and she beams.

A cause needn’t be grand, it needn’t impress a crowd to be worthy of our commitment. I have a friend who built houses Monday through Friday for people who could pay him and then built other houses for free on Saturday with Habitat for Humanity. A neighbor makes herself available to international students and their families, unbridling for them the puzzles of living in this new place. Other neighbors coach soccer teams, visit the sick, give rides to the housebound, tutor dropouts, teach adults to read.

I could multiply these examples a hundredfold without ever leaving my county. Most likely you could do the same. Any community worth living in must have a web of people faithful to good work and to one another, or that community would fall apart.

To say that fidelity is common is not to say it’s easy, painless or free. It costs energy and time, maybe a lifetime.

And every firm yes we say requires many a firm no. One Sunday I was talking the man who visited prisoners in jail, when a young woman approached to ask if he would join the board of a new peace group she was organizing. In a rush of words she told him why the cause was crucial, why the cause was crucial, why the time was ripe, why she absolutely needed his leadership. Knowing this man’s sympathies, I figured the would agree to serve. But after listening to her plea, he gazed at her soberly for a moment, then said, “That certainly is a vital concern, worthy of all your passion. But it is not my concern.”

The challenge for all of us is to find those few causes that are peculiarly our own–those to which we are clearly called and then to embrace them with all our heart. By remaining faithful to a calling, we can create the conditions for finding a purpose and a pattern in our days.

If you imagine trying to solve all the world’s problems at once, though, you’re likely to quit before you finish rolling up your sleeves. But if you stake out your own workable territory, if you settle on a manageable number of causes, then you might accomplish a great deal, all the while trusting that others elsewhere are working faithfully in their own places.

  如何真待自我

  ──明智施助于人与妥善保护自己

  我认识一位先生多年,他修长清瘦,温文尔雅。后来我发现他日复一日,月复一月地访问我们县城监狱的囚犯,已经坚持了几十年。他帮助犯人们写信,递条子,捎带衣物和书籍。然而他仅是帮忙而已。他不会跟他们讲大道理,不会凭个人好恶,挑三捡四地选择帮助的对象,也不会谋求别人对他的好心以任何回报。他所关心是:他们正身陷囹圄。

  他本可以把时间花在玩高尔夫球或看电视上的,为什么要与这些社会的弃儿呆在一起?他立即对我说:“我这样做,是因为其他人都对他们不抱希望,而我永远不会放弃对他们的期望。”

  “永不放弃”是一种高贵品质,我们可以从运动员、士兵、灾祸的幸存者以及康复中的重伤患者身上看到它的闪光。假如你能勇敢地抗比你强大得多的对手,你的事迹有可能在晚间的新闻中占一席之地。但在那些不是那么惊天动地,不太值得见诸报端的事例中,对人,对使命,对职业的真诚在我们身边无数人身上都得以体现。

  它体现在这样的父母身上,他们的女儿染紫了自己的头发,在自己的肚子纹身,甚至与摇滚乐队厮混,他们依然深爱着她;它在这样的夫妇身上,他们选择改善婚姻关系而不是离婚;它体现在那些默默无闻的大众身上,他们在自己的工作中尽职尽责,不是因为有人监督或是他们能从中得到大把钞票,而是因为他们知道自己的工作很重要。

  我的儿子杰西上六年级的时候,他的老师被诊断患上了乳腺癌。她把这种疾病的概况、手术、治疗方法和她对未来康复的希望都告诉了孩子们。杰西回家后,对于老师能把自己的病情告诉他们,感触颇深。她本可以请病假,在余下的日子里呆在家中养病,但是她的乳腺切除手术做好以后,她就开始每星期到学校上一下午的班,后来就是两个下午、一整天,直至两天、三天……

  一位家长很担心,认为她会为了这些孩子而伤身,这位老师却戏谑地说道:“哦,不!他们是我的最好良药。此外,这些孩子只能上一次六年级。”她想在自己有机会教他们时全力以赴。

  她接受的治疗一定很成功,我在十年后见到她时,她挺强健。当我领着她在城中兜圈时,她总是询问杰西的情况:他是否还是那么机灵调皮,对学习充满兴趣?我告诉她,“是的”。她嘴角露出一丝微笑。

  一项事业不需要有多壮丽,它不需要给人留下这样的印象:它值得我们去从事。我有一个朋友,他从星期一到星期五为那些愿意出钱的人建房,而星期六则为“人道家居”组织免费建房。我的一个邻居为那些新来到这个陌生地方的外国学生和他们的家人答疑解惑。别的邻居们有的执教足球队,探视病人,有的驱车访问那些羁居于家的人,教育那些悲观厌世的人,教成年人读书。”

  光从这县城中,我就能举出成百上千个这样的例子,你多半也能同样举出这么多。任何一个值得一住的社区中都一定有很多对工作、对他人真诚相待的人,否则,这个社区就会崩溃。

  “真诚待人”是一种普遍现象,但并不是说你能够轻而易举、无痛无扰地做到真诚待人。它需要时间、精力,也许要一辈子的努力。

  此外,当我们每坚定地说一次“是”时,要说许多次“不”。一个星期天,我正与那位探视囚犯的先生交谈,一位女士走过来,问他能否加入她正在筹备的一个新的和平组织的理事会。她滔滔不绝地说了许多。说明这一事业为何具有关键意义,为何时机已经成熟,为何她绝对城要接受他的领导。我知道他富有同情心,料想他会同意加入。谁知他在听完她的恳求以后,用一种矜持的眼神盯着她看了一会,然后说:“那自然是极其重要的,值得‘你’为其倾尽全力,但它却不是‘我’所关心的。”

  我们所有人面临的挑战,就是要找到那些能与自己相匹配的事业──我们能清楚地听到它们的召唤,找到以后,我们就要全心全意地去从事它们。如果能忠诚于一个召唤,我们就能为找到自己生活的目标和模式创造条件。

  假定你想在片刻之间解决世上的所有问题,那么你有可能在卷起袖子准备大干一场前就知难而退。但如果你只想在自己能力所及的范围内一搏,如果你只致力于些许你所能从事的事业,如果你相信在其他地方,别的人也在自己的领域中辛勤工作,你也许会取得极大的成功。

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