Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cigars and Trashcans and Holding Hands

You probably didn't know Father Tribou.  You wouldn't have any reason to.  He was the principal of my high school: Little Rock Catholic High School for Boys.  To many of us, though, he is a legend.  I had always assumed he was immortal.  He eventually proved me wrong on that front, but not before he impacted thousands of lives. 

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In the end, there can be only one.
As you can imagine, the stories about Fr. Tribou are unending.  Everyone who knew him has at least one.  Most of us have several.  Many of them involve discipline.  He was, shall we say, creative.  One time a student walked by the study hall slamming the doors.  I remember the announcement.  "Boys, today one of you decided it would be funny to slam the doors on the study hall.  I don't know your name, but I know your face.  It would be better for you if you didn't make me go through the yearbook this afternoon."  The student (wisely) fessed up.  His punishment was to carry a massive door around for an entire day.

See me under the magnolia tree for more stories about cigars and trashcans and holding hands.

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And get comfortable.  I have a lot of them.
I had only one class with Father Tribou.  It was a freshman religion class.  He asked and answered some pretty profound, and often odd, questions in that room.  "Why would it be wrong for Rockers to stick his finger in that pencil sharpener over there?"  I remember one day he turned to us and said, "Boys, what is the most important thing to learn?"  Someone said English.  "Oh.  Because I teach English.  Do you think you're going to get bonus points with that answer?  It's wrong."

"Thyself, boys.  Know thyself."  It's one of a number of lessons that stuck with me across the years.

I have a good understanding of what motivates me, what my priorities are, and how I exist in the world.  It's a fairly clear and detailed mental picture.

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It may surprise you that my mental picture is occassionally sometimes frequently almost always skewed a bit.  I've written about this once before, when I wrote a post on priorities and the importance of knowing and understanding them.  I suggested in that post that if you want to know where your priorities really lie, it might require asking someone else.

As I'm pushing 40 ("pushing?"), I'm starting to wonder if I know myself at all.  I don't mean this in a "mid-life crisis I need to take up base jumping right now or else" kind of way.  Rather, I mean I sometimes feel like there may be some people who know me a lot better than I do.  I know Lisa does.  And I'm starting to wonder if my kids do too.  That has to be why Wesley suggested fireworks for the week-long celebration of my life that is to take place after I am run over by a beer truck on Ponce.

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That is a hard no.
Well, Father Tribou, I guess it's time to start learning.  But how?

Listening is probably a good place to start.  Paying attention to the people who know me the best.  Thinking through actions and consequences and patterns of behavior.  Most importantly, maintaining a willingness to admit flaws and errors.  Not to accept them as permanent reality, but to begin the long process of changing them.

As we draw near to Holy Week, we will no doubt be reminded of the story of Peter, who claimed he would follow Jesus even to death, only to deny him just as Jesus predicted.  I so often think of myself like Peter did.  Energetic and righteous and fervent.  But my actions sometimes paint a very different picture, just as Peter's did.

There's good news, of course.  Easter is coming, and with it grace and forgiveness.  But neither grace nor forgiveness change who we are.  Better, and worse.  Maybe knowing ourselves really just means thinking neither too much of ourselves...or too little.

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