He came up to me on my way into the hardware store. It was a good day, following a great week, and early Sunday morning. He looked at me with recognition in his eyes and said, “You are Mr. Shinn, aren’t you?” Having worked for a school district for over 20 years, I am used to strangers acknowledging me; especially since I have worked with thousands of valley children and their families. I respond in the affirmative and he states, “Over 15 years ago you said there was no hope for my daughter, and I just want you to know, you were wrong, and she is doing well with a Master’s Degree.”
Needless to say, I was a little shocked. Many, many times, especially when working with youth involved with gangs or drugs, I have stated that if things don’t change, they might get worse, the end result serving sentences in jails, institutions, and ending in death! That is not my quote, but one that comes from Narcotics Anonymous. Because I am prideful, and that particular morning, I was a little defensive, I responded that it is possible I said something else. They may have heard me say “your daughter was a loser and it was a done deal.” I did apologize for my prejudice regarding his child, but I don’t think he was hearing it.
I have been wrong before, and it was uncomfortable to hear that I was the loser in this situation. His daughter is the winner, and I am glad she is a success. What I have learned over the years is that we all fall short, mess up, drop the ball, and fail the test. I have learned to say I am sorry, but I also say my piece, but in the final analysis, no one is perfect, that is except Jesus Christ. It is good to be humbled and I like to come away from every negative situation saying to myself “What can I learn from this?” or “How could I have handled it differently.”
As we find our mouth with another forkful of humility, it is important to apologize. I try to be at peace with all men, and admitting fault or infallibility is a healthy philosophy. I hope that this father will let it go now that he had his opportunity to confront those who were against his daughter. It is important, especially for parents, to apologize when we screw up. If you are forever apologizing, there is something seriously wrong, but kids don’t come with an owner’s manual, so we all make mistakes. I don’t remember ever hearing my Dad say he was sorry, and he needed to; many a situation. If we act contrite, it helps to build bridges and break down walls. There are too many walls in families today.
I am a behaviorist, so in working with friends and business clients I like to focus on the conduct, not the person. We can all change what we do, and that is a path to changing who we are. Those of us, who have recovered from addiction, know that change the behavior and the character will follow. It is good to get bad feedback. It helps me to change. It doesn’t always feel good, kinda like eating your vegetables, but that’s what I had to do in order to get dessert. Humble pie doesn’t taste that bad. It is really a problem when you don’t learn from mistakes, and continue the same patterns of stupid behavior. That is another name for addiction or foolishness.
Finally, I am a better person for the waiter who brought me a slice of humility last weekend. Not a big deal in the big picture, but for a that family, I’m glad I was wrong. Come to think of it, when I was at the young age of 18, an IVC professor told me I was a loser, and he wasn’t even one of my instructors. Didn’t pay any attention to him and just went on to prove him wrong. It’s OK to be a little wrong and a lot right. It keeps you humble.