Journalist Sydney J. Harris is credited with the following quote:
The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, “I was wrong”. (Source)
You wouldn’t get any argument from me about these three practices presenting us with frequent challenges. They are, in my estimation, rooted in biblical principles. Each seems to bring both the life and teaching of Jesus into focus. Reflecting on this is encouraging in and of itself.
The other day I witnessed an extraordinary scene involving the third item on the list. I was filling out a deposit slip, while standing at one of those little tables in the bank lobby. Shortly after I picked up the pen, I heard a male voice asking the manager, who was walking through the lobby, if she had a moment. She stopped and they began to converse.
He quickly recounted a story with which she was familiar. The long story made short: He had made a deposit with cash back the previous Friday. He believed the drive through teller had shorted him $60. Evidently, he was quite insistent and convincing in asserting this belief, because the bank had given him the $60 he thought he was due.
I kept my head down, pretending I was still working on my deposit. I really just wanted to hear how this was going to turn out. Well, he went on to explain that he and his wife were cleaning their car on Sunday afternoon when he discovered three $20 bills had slipped into a crack behind a cup holder. He was clearly embarrassed about the whole matter.
When he handed the money to the manager he said with an unflinching voice, “I was wrong.” The conversation was heartwarming. He then went on to say that he felt like he needed to apologize to everyone who was in the bank that afternoon. The manager assured him this was unnecessary. He stated that he would have it no other way. He asked the manager if she would offer his apologies to each one. Again, she said it really wasn’t necessary. But she indicated that she would be sure to do so.
By this time everyone in the small branch was tuned in to what was going on. I was no longer pretending to be minding my own business, either. The man then asked if the manager would mind if he spoke to the teller with whom he had previously done business. She had abandoned her post at the drive through window to listen to her client’s mea culpa. The manager consented.
She smiled as he approached. He stepped up to the counter and spoke in subdued tones. “I was wrong,” he said. She nodded as her smile grew. He then added, “I am so sorry. Would you please forgive me?”
“Yes. It is really no problem,” she said. She then added, “Thank you for coming in.”
As he walked passed me on his way to the exit, the look of relief on his face was unmistakable. I don’t know anything about this man, but I felt like he had given us all a lesson in humility and love. Indeed, I felt like I had seen Jesus shining through his life. It also made me desire to go and do likewise.
© Bill Williams
May 24, 2007