The principal of the thing

“The principal would like to see you in his office.” These words used to strike terror in the hearts of students. But not into mine. I knew how to deal with these faculty and admin people. I had been the student body president in junior high school and was now starting an encore of my act as a senior at Payson High. I got elected to most everything I ever ran for. The reason was simple I thought, and still think. Somewhere I got hold of a dog eared copy of a book by Dale Carnegie titled, “How to win friends and influence people.” It made perfect sense to my young mind. Everybody is right in his own opinion. Put yourself on their side of the table. Listen with your heart as well as your mind.

I was as self-centered as the average insecure teenager, but somehow I internalized the truth and effectiveness of these principles. Even with a mind, emotions, and spirit as awkward and gawky as was my developing body, I believed these things. In my stumbling way I usually tried to use them. “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I was a half step ahead of my age group in trying to reach out to other people.

As a result I made friends everywhere except with Tink Shepherd. He wanted to beat me up, and eventually did to knock me off my cocky perch.

The handlers of Jimmy Walker were slapping each other on the back the night he was elected Mayor of New York. Then someone asked a momentarily sobering question. “What kind of a mayor will Jimmie be?” Somebody else restored the raucous festivities with, “Who knows. But he’s h___ of a candidate.”

That would have been me. I figured the name of the game was to get elected. It was a popularity contest. Who knew (or frankly cared much) what happened after that. When my loyal constituency began to grumble that we weren’t having the dances and other activities they had counted on, I blamed the dead beats in the faculty and administration.

Knock, knock; “Come in. Sit down.”

Reed Jones was the new principal replacing the gentle gentleman we had worn out the previous year. Among other things, Principle Jones worked as a baseball umpire. He once threw his own son out of a game for questioning one of his strike calls. Even the faculty was tiptoeing around the school since he blew in. What was I thinking? Or not?

An hour later which didn’t seem any longer than a month, Principal Jones called off his verbal attack dogs and released me. He didn’t have to open the door for me. I walked out under it.

The most blistering part of the ordeal was that he was absolutely right. I knew that during the bludgeoning, and even stronger as the memory of it burned into my brain and heart.

That miserable, ugly, embarrassing, wrenching flogging was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I vowed then I would take responsibility for my mistakes, and shortcomings. I would never blame my failures on outward circumstances and other people.

Have I kept that pledge 100% of the time? If I say yes, you will know I have added lying to my sin of passing the buck. But I have tried, and still try. In the words of the immortal philosopher Yoda, “There is no try. There is only do and not do.” I have done and not done. When I have done, I have gained ground. When I have faltered I have back slid. I believe I have inched forward more than I have lost ground. Less often I have been guilty of the greatest of sins which is to be conscious of none. I am now conscious of some. I now either catch myself before I stumble or repent when I do.

So if you don’t like what I have just written, I am disappointed but I can’t blame anybody but myself.