When I was in my early 20s, I took an etiquette class back home in Mississippi. Although I remember very few of the rules, one has always stuck with me: As a general rule, you should let people embarrass themselves.
This is a story about a law student, a partner at a firm, and gross towel usage. Brace yourself. Here we go. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with being a law student who’s hired to work as a “summer associate” at a law firm. You try to do everything you can to impress the partners. After all, those partners are the ones paying you wads of cash to come audition for them.
One night when my daughter was in kindergarten I was putting her down to sleep, and as I was leaving the room, she said, “Daddy, a girl at school called me a mean name.” “What was it?” I asked. She covered her face with her hands and said, “I don’t want to say.”
I was standing across the counter from the lady at the hole-in-the-wall dry cleaners and I was getting irritated. She had lost my pants and I was sure of it, but I couldn’t find my ticket to prove it. The woman kept insisting that I hadn’t dropped them off with my suit jacket.
I got my big chance to be a movie star in eighth grade when casting director David Rubin came to Petal, Mississippi, in search of a kid to star in an upcoming Kevin Costner film called “The War.” With great excitement, I got my brother-in-law to drive me to the local high school for my audition.
One time I was talking to a friend and she mentioned that when she first started following Jesus, the Lord greatly used sermons from a certain TV preacher to help her grow in her faith. Personally, I wasn’t impressed with the televangelist. Granted, I hadn’t actually listened to any of the preacher’s sermons, but that was beside the point. Everybody in my circle agreed that the preaching was little more than motivational speaking with scriptures thrown in.
I recently got into a brief argument with my wife over something totally minor. In the moment, however, it felt like it was a huge deal (pride has a way of converting little offenses into major ones).
It was the crack of dawn and I couldn’t stop looking over at the woman a few feet away from me on the beach. I had come to watch the sunrise and she was getting on my nerves.
A few years ago, I had a coworker who was particularly unfriendly from the start. She barely even acknowledged me when I’d see her and say hello. Then one day, it changed.
There are very few sports events I’ve ever cared about, and when there’s an exception, it’s a big deal. The last time it happened to me was in 2001.
The other night, I was putting my little daughters to bed, and I sensed that I needed to talk to them about shame. I figured we could discuss it the next day since it was already late, but I didn’t realize the Holy Spirit was prompting me for a reason. Before I left the room, one of my daughters said, “Daddy, a girl at school called me a mean name.” “What was it?” I asked. She covered her face with her hands and said, “I don’t want to say.”
One time, I told my friend Steve that I was going to ask God to humble me. Steve said, “I wouldn’t do that. Scripture says to humble yourself. You don’t want God to have to do it.” Along that vein, a few years ago, I embarked on a self-imposed, humbling journey in self-discovery in which I did interviews with five different people, asking questions that elicited mostly-negative responses about ways I could improve my impact on others.
A few years ago my buddy Shon and I were working out at the gym when I saw something that baffled me: a middle-aged guy in the gym walking around in his T-shirt, sneakers and his underwear. Yes, his underwear, and no, we were not in the locker room.
I don’t have a lot of regrets from my childhood, but there’s one from fifth grade that still bothers me. I made friends with a second grader named Jennifer who rode my bus. She had a round face, a raspy voice, and a wild mop of wavy blond hair. And those eyes — they nearly disappeared when she smiled, which she did a lot — especially when she was talking to me.
The other day, I was just minding my own business, trying to get to work, when a woman in a black Lexus brought out the worst in me. I was trying to park in a garage in downtown Washington, D.C., which is a challenge. I have little time to get to the garage after dropping off my daughter at school, and if I’m a minute late, the price goes up from $14 to $21. Time is of the essence.