MISTAKING THE GOOD FOR THE BEST

Herman closed the front door gently, took off his coat, and hung it in the closet. He unzipped his overshoes, first one and then the other, slid them off, and bent down to put them in the closet. There a wild jumble of boots and rubbers confronted him. Muttering under his breath, he began to sort them out and arrange them two by two. Then he carefully placed his own side by side in the last square inch of space and tried to close the door. It would not close. A parka that had been jammed in hurriedly was blocking the door. Herman methodically rearranged the coats and jackets and sweaters. Then he closed the door gently.

For one flashing second he thought, “Why didn’t I just slam that door? Why didn’t I just throw my overshoes in on top of the heap like everybody else does?” But it was only a momentary spasm. “One just does not do things that way,” he said to himself.

The house was strangely quiet. The cat meowed plaintively and rubbed against his leg. He stooped over and patted her.

“Hello, Mrs. Beasley.”

Funny name for a cat, but Tammy had insisted on calling her Mrs. Beasley after she’d seen a television doll commercial. A ridiculous name for a cat really.

“I wanted to call her Whiskers or Tabby, but Tammy insisted on Mrs. Beasley,”   Herman recalled, smiling to himself. “Mrs. Beasley.”

The cat followed him to the refrigerator. He poured some milk into her dish and opened a new can of cat food.

“Where is everybody?” he asked the cat as he spooned out food into her dish. Then Herman closed the refrigerator door gently.

“Last minute shopping, I guess.”

He mused about it as he went upstairs to take off his clothes.

“Lorraine is always shopping at the last minute. Well, not always, but a good bit of the time. Probably wieners and beans for dinner tonight.”

He was mildly irritated. The bedroom was a shambles. Lorraine’s slacks and blouse were thrown on the bed. The closet doors were flung open. A dress hung askew on a crooked hanger. Her shoes had obviously been quickly rummaged through. He sighed and opened the closet door gently. He hung his suit away, then carried his shirt to the clothes hamper in the bathroom. He had to push Tammy’s sneakers off the mat as he hung up her towel. He scooped up her play clothes and crammed them together with his shirt into the hamper.

“Life would be so much easier if people would just take a little time to be more tidy. It would make my job easier too,” he thought as he ran water into the sink.

He had to plan his day. This was Herman’s way – the only way he could manage to retain any semblance of sanity. Then inevitably somebody came along and disrupted his plans. Suddenly a great weariness came over him. As he leaned on his hands in the water, random thoughts begin to flicker through his mind like fragments of a ragged film running through a broken projector. Would the company expand or relocate? Maybe we will have to move. Jennings would sure like my job – he is a manipulator. The house needs painting. The living room rug is pretty worn. Has the washing machine been repaired? Wonder how much it was? Tammy’s tooth is loose; maybe it will drop out. Jennings has just built a new house. His payments must be very steep—no wonder he wants my job. At least Lorraine sews her own clothes; that is a help. We have got to throw a party soon—there are lots of invitations to pay back. Oh, the pledge card from the church, it has just come. Got to get the car winterized; should have it sanded and painted if l am going to drive it another year. I wonder if we will get any tax breaks this year? Didn’t get anything done today like I planned. That dumb Jennings—he messed up my whole afternoon—had to drop everything and go to a special session to consider his harebrained plans. He seems to think he is the only idea man in the company. How do they expect me to get my work done with all these interruptions?

He dressed and closed his closet door gently. He picked up Lorraine’s slacks and blouse and hung them away. “Poor girl! I know she gets fed up with her daily routines. Breakfast, cleaning, getting Tammy off to kindergarten, cooking, washing, ironing. I know she would like to get out. At least I see grown people every day. This house must be like a prison to her.” He closed her closet door gently and went downstairs. Mrs. Beasley rubbed his leg and he picked her up.

“Six o’clock—wherever could they be?”

He started to sort through the mail, and it was then that he saw the note. ”

“Herman, we waited until almost five for you and then just had to leave. Please get a cab and join us. You missed Tammy’s birthday party last year: Try not to miss it again this year. Lorraine! ”

Tammy’s birthday party. At a restaurant that caters such things. They had planned it together. He had been a little reluctant at first, but okay, the sixth birthday is a milestone, and he could see Tammy that very morning saying, “Daddy, you’ll be there, won’t you?” and he had given her a big hug.

He looked at the clock, and it said 6:15. Somewhere in his soul, Herman heard a door slam shut. The kingdom of heaven, so it is said, is like the time a man received an invitation—even conscientious Hermans can miss the party because they mistake the good for the best.

Source | Edward Richard Riegert,
in The Lutheran Quarterly, vol 16 (February 1974)

Quoted in
John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells
(Cowley Publications, 2007) pages 63-66

CONSIDER THIS

  • Are you paying attention to what really matters in life?
  • Where are you investing the precious gift of time? In urgencies and emergencies? In important things? Or in what is essential?

THE TRIPLE-FILTER TEST

In ancient Greece, Socrates (the famous philosopher) was visited by an acquaintance of his. Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs. Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass the “Triple-Filter” test.

The first filter, he explained, is Truth. “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” The man shook his head. “No, I actually just heard about it, and …”

Socrates cut him off. “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?” Again, the man shook his head. “No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”

Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking. “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One filter still remains, though, so you may yet still tell me. That is Usefulness or Necessity. Is this information useful or necessary to me?”  A little defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”

“Well, then,” Socrates said, turning on his heel. “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”

Source | Jennifer Cook O’Toole, The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules
(Jessica Kingsley Publications, 2012) page 137

CONSIDER THIS

Before you answer a question or voice your opinion, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it good? Is it kind? Is it useful? Is it necessary? If it passes these filters, speak up. If not, either find a tactful way to make it pass or better still, keep it to yourself.

Most people leave it at that and assume that the story is just about the information we spread. What if the real truth behind it, however, is about the information we seek and create. Imagine how different the world would be if we only chose to seek or create information that was true, good, or useful.

Imagine how different the world would be if we only chose to seek or create information that was true, good, or useful.

 

THE CONTAINER AND THE CONTENT

A local journalist called and asked me “ What would you do, Ajahn Brahm, if someone took a Buddhist Holy Book and flushed it down the toilet?”
Without hesitation I answered “Sir, if someone took a Buddhist Holy Book and flushed it down the toilet, the first thing I would do is call a plumber!”
When the journalist finished laughing, he confided in me that that was the most sensible answer he had heard.
Source | Ajahn Brahm, Good? Bad? Who Knows?
CONSIDER THIS
You may flush a Holy Book down a toilet, but you will never flush forgiveness, peace and compassion – traits and characteristics that healthy religions, faith traditions and philosophies of life are made of – down a toilet.
Remember that the book is never the religion, nor is the statue, the building or the priest. These are only “containers.”
What does the book teach us? What does the statue represent? What qualities are the priests supposed to embody? This is the “content”.
When we recognize the difference between the container and the contents, then we will preserve the contents even when the container is being destroyed.
We can print more books, build more temples and statues and even train more monks and nuns, but when we lose our love and respect for others and ourselves and replace it with violence, then the whole religion has gone down the toilet.