Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 16, 2005
Bite the bullet and do the right thing
Working as a journalist in a small town has its own way of being interesting and colourful.
Everybody knows who you are and there is not much space for being incognito most of the time.
The working relationship with sources is much different than working for a big newspaper.
The chance of meeting your story sources on the streets at least once a week is pretty high. So if you had a bad working relationship with a source, you would be always on your toes once you bumped into them while shopping or just going for a stroll.
Twice I talked on the phone to a source who did not identify herself as the person I was looking for.
She said, "I will give her your message when she comes home."
Ten minutes after my last conversation with her, she was in the office looking for me.
She introduced herself to me and said, "I apologize for lying to you. I was the one talking to you on the phone. I'm just having a bad day and not really into talking to people today.
"But I am here now. If you still want to talk to me," she said apologetically.
I felt bad for her, but at the same time I was elated that somebody would come forward and correct something she thought was not right.
We had a good conversation and the interview went deeper than what I had expected.
Simple as this story may be it re-affirms one truth for me: human beings have the innate capacity of doing what is right.
As I looked into the eyes of that woman, I saw how sincerely sorry she was.
The experience made me ask myself, "How often do I try and correct a mistake I made? How promptly do I do that?
"Or do I let my conscience just bother me and not do anything?"
This woman made me stop and reflect how inconvenient and uncomfortable it is to admit one's mistake. Yet it is the right thing to do.
And because it is the right thing to do, it strengthens one's character and nurtures one's spirit. But sometimes we choose not to do what is right for various reasons.
On that note, I would like to suggest five things I consider the right thing to do but which we often don't do.
Refusing to gossip is the right thing to do. But because it is so prevalent in our culture, it is startling when we encounter someone who refuses to engage in it.
Avoiding unfair criticism is another one. There is a place for honest, constructive criticism; however, most criticism is offered with less-than-noble intentions. It is often the case that we criticize those with whom we disagree or those we don't like or don't want others to like.
Relying on fact rather than rumour is the third right thing to do. It is closely related to gossip because without gossip there would be no rumours.
The fourth right thing to do is being respectful. Being respectful is a value that is present in all religions in the world.
Finally, it is a right thing to deal openly and honestly with disagreement.
Many disagreements are simple problems that escalate into major catastrophes, usually because of poor communication.
One burden we carry in our Church communities is that we must be "nice" and we define "nice" as not saying anything negative or disagreeing publicly with anyone else.
But sometimes disagreeing is not the real issue. How we disagree is the issue.
It is not always convenient, but doing what is right is the right thing to do.
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