On Humility: The One Who Is Not

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Greg is an old man. He has been that way since age seventy-two, when he retired from being the local councilman in Wood-Ridge city. He was a good and fair politician, who took care of the less fortunate while appeasing the wealthy. He ensured new facilities and parks for the poor sections of town. He did this by allowing his friends in high places to hold elaborate banquets in the name of raising funds. He was the distinguished guest in all one hundred and sixty three banquets.

He looks back on his life with fondness and pride. His four children, three boys and one girl, are fully grown in their fifties. They have become bankers and lawyers. His wife, Margaret, is seventy-eight and was a kindergarten teacher in her former life, almost twenty years ago.

Greg and Margaret go to church service every Sunday. Their church is a medium-sized, white building with fancy pillars in the front. Those pillars were erected when Greg was on the board of church elders, and they were the brainchild of Greg’s dear friend, Michael, who has since passed away. At the time, Greg was ambivalent about the eye-catching pillars. He did not find them particularly attractive, nor did he find them utterly repulsive. However, his feelings were not so strong that he wanted to go against the grain of general opinion, so he approved the design, along with everyone else.

Greg and Margaret take long, detoured walks back home every Sunday after church. They start by walking from their front-row seats to the exit of the building, waving to acquaintances, and nodding graciously to admirers (Greg was, after all, once a famous councilman in the town). When they are outside the door of the church, Greg waits patiently at the bottom while Margaret climbs down the steps slowly. The two of them then stroll down the church sidewalk, go down onto Main Street, cross the intersection by the train, and instead of going right, they go left, walking the entire circumference of the circle until they are back at their house.

Today, there is a little child in front of the candy shop on Main Street. She has ragged hair that looks like it has not been washed in a week. She is wearing a worn-out T-shirt and beaten up jeans. She looks about eight years old and is clutching the hand of her mother, an equally sad-looking woman. Her mother is telling her that they do not have the money for candy. “Not today, my love. We need to save the dollar for brussel sprouts.”

Greg has five dollars in his pocket. He and Margaret brought it to buy their weekly treat, double scoop cones at Dilly’s Ice Cream Shop. ┬áThe cones cost two dollars and fifty-cents each. Greg likes the flavors, Chocolate and Cookie Dough. Margaret likes Orange Cream and Raspberry Sherbet. They like to each get their own cones.

Greg notices the little girl staring longingly at the candy. He thinks about the ice cream prices. A single scoop cone costs two dollars. Greg could settle for just the Chocolate or the Cookie Dough and Margaret might not mind just the Orange or the Raspberry Sherbet. But, he would have to ask her and it is a lot of trouble. For a few moments Greg stands there. He is torn between the little girl and his ice cream.

Greg catches his reflection in the front glass of Dilly’s. He stares at the visor on his head. “Wood-Ridge Annual Golf Outing 1993″ is imprinted on the front. Then, he remembers all the good that he has done and how much money the annual golf outing raises each year for people just like this little girl.

Margaret calls him from the shop. “Dear, I ordered your usual!”

Greg steps into the shop and presents his five dollars.

The little girl walks away holding her mother’s hand.

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