Making a commitment is rarely a comfortable thing to do.
I’ve got the kind of physique known as the “Cornish Coal Miner’s Build”, which means I have a long torso and relatively short legs. With my short legs one of the hardest events on an obstacle course was the vertical wall – I could handle everything else but that wall was really hard for me to get over. There were many times when I’d just look both ways, then run around the wall if the coast was clear.
But when the coast wasn’t clear? Such was the case during a hot summer day at FT Lewis many years ago. A member of the training cadre was standing right next to the wall so I had no choice but to go over it in the proper manner. I stood there for a minute trying to think while the sergeant was “counseling” me – I can still vividly remember his neck muscles all bunched up and little specks of spit flying while he was tactfully delivering a critique of my performance. A sudden thought came to me – more of an impulse actually – and I took out my wallet and threw over the wall. There was no way I could by-pass that sergeant – and inside my wallet were pictures of my sweet heart – along with my identification card, weapons card, meal ticket and the pathetically small amount of money I had at the time.
I made it over the wall. Some part of my reptilian fore-brain recognized that I needed to make a commitment much stronger than usual to get over that wall and the sight of my wallet sailing over the wall was strong enough to get me over that insurmountable top edge.
In medieval times the weather had a tremendous effect on the way battles were fought. The mud would slow down armored men on both foot and horseback. Damp weather conditions would also take the spring out of bows and catapults so most military campaigns were conducted during the summer when the weather was warm and dry. When the cold weather would return many men would slip away home while the more stalwart fellows would stay and prepare for the next summer’s campaign, gathering provisions and preparing weapons. The ones that left were called “summer soldiers” and the term became a curse-word – it was someone who didn’t fulfill his commitments and failed in supporting their comrades.
It’s easy to be a summer soldier in the world today. Maybe I read too many comics but commitment and honor were the types of values that I grew up hoping to have as an adult. Unfortunately “being cool” too often trumps those values and just as unfortunately “being cool” means being self-absorbed – not investing any action or situation with anything other than a minimum of commitment.
It’s sad – not only am I much more comfortable around people who keep commitments and can be trusted, there are countless times in a day when I wonder how “cool” people were trying to be during the course of their jobs. Was the lab tech processing my blood work at the doctor’s office doing a good job or worrying about “being cool”. Was the mechanic working on my car committed to doing a good job or was he more worried about “being cool”.
I’m not suggest that he throw his wallet into my transmission like I threw mine over the wall at FT Lewis, but I do hope he has a measure of commitment in what he does do.