“Always be a good man. Always be a Decent Human Being.”
Those words still ring in my ears even after all these years.
Profound words of a singular, focused wisdom spoken by a man I knew for only a short time in the larger scheme of things. Mr. Ralph Wright.
I remember the first time Ralph explained what he meant.
“When you meet someone for the first time, are they someone you would like to have lunch with? Do they strike you as a ‘good’ person? If they do, they usually are and they’re our favorite kind of people. You can teach a good man anything and you can trust that they’ll always do the right thing for you…well…most of the time anyway.” And he ended the explanation with a little smirk.
I never forgot that sentiment and I not only used it every day of my life since, but I continue to use that specific gage going forward in all I do.
Gaging both myself and others.
It has never ceased to deliver exactly what was promised.
That’s the upside.
The downside is that silent, saddened walk down the center aisle of the courtroom when the fight is done, and you’ve given it all you had but you still lost – and lost everything along with it.
That silent, crushing walk, that can crumble convictions and even end careers is so deeply deadly, so prolific that some can’t survive it and they disappear.
I’ve made that walk – under much different circumstances, of course – and it is a potentially crippling event.
No matter how great the loss may be, you still have to walk it.
If you strive to be Atticus, you have no choice but to walk it.
If you strive to be a Decent Human Being, there’s no other possibility left for you.
I could never see any other possibility for myself.
And that’s a good thing.
A good man is no saint – at least not in any conventional terms.
A good man is a good man in spite of his own personal demons and crutches.
A good man accepts his faults and sometimes even embraces them as guilty pleasures, but he never allows them to pervade the ‘right course’ that he knows – that he feels – he must follow.
It’s not a conscious thought, and it’s not a conscious feeling, but it’s always there.
Sure, it’s an inherent need to do the right thing, but it’s much more than that.
A Decent Human Being is ingrained through every fiber of his being with a need to always act in a certain, definite way, but to never allow it to search out a harm for anyone else.
And the one most profound quality of these people, these ‘Decent Human Beings’ that I’ve known in my life?
They do not know that they are.
I hired many DCB’s during my years in business and every last one of them was the best they could be.
The best because they didn’t know that they were so they never bothered to think about it.
That’s how you know they’re sincere and good and yes, even decent.
They never thought about it, they just did it because that is their life as they know and live it.
It’s a matter of fact for them.
And options of self-preservation and cowardice never once enter into their thinking.
Ever since I first heard those words, I’ve strived to be like Atticus.
It’s a difficult row to hoe.
It’s trying and it’s daunting and sometimes, it’ll just plain scare the shit out of you!
But it’s worth the uncertainty and the emotional roller coaster that it brings with it.
And for one simple reason…it produces nothing but good in yourself and offers nothing but good to those that you affect by your actions.
Sometimes you have to actually see someone take that one, clean shot that ends the mad-dog threat coming at you, but when you do, you are instantly changed by it.
That’s the good effect for all involved.
Just seeing a selfless action eliminate a threat and eliminate it for people that aren’t even yet involved is a life changing event. There’s no self-satisfaction and certainly no glory in any of it, and I think that is a tell-tale sign of the DHB. It’s not about any of those things.
Like Davy Crockett said, “If you think you’re right, just go ahead and do it.”
It’s about doing the right thing.
Yes, I strive to be like Atticus.
I never want to take that lonely, horrible walk down the center aisle again, but I know I will.
I don’t think of myself as a Decent Human Being, but I will always work hard to try and be exactly that.
Not for any show or glory. But because of the good it produces.
I have felt no greater satisfaction.
I’m not a crusader by any measure, but if the situation should call for it – and almost always does to my own detriment – I will take up the fight. If it’s the right thing to do…if it’s what should be done…then I’m in head-first. I can’t see any other way.
Very rarely have I ever been understood, and almost never accepted or appreciated, but it was all still good. I will always stand behind that because I believed I did the right thing.
It doesn’t have to be recognized to be a good thing.
Ralph would laugh if he heard me compare all of this to Atticus. I’m sure he would tell me why I was wrong but most certainly follow it up with, “Anyway…it’s the best you can do, Frank. Decent Human Beings are our favorite kind of people. Keep doing it and run along back to work.”
The quiet walk from Ralph’s office down the hallway was never as somber as the center aisle walk would be. It was a moment of contemplation.
It took a matter of seconds, but it felt like a walk that lasted for hours.
It was a time to formulate the next plan to not only win but to find the best way to do it for everyone involved…and their families and all the other people we would affect and never know or even meet.
And here I am now, almost twenty-five years later, still striving to be Atticus.
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