A metro or a polo?
Do you fancy a challenge? One that might disturb your sense that you are just fine as you are…?
…if so, read on.
I’m not going to write about the great ills of the world or of how there is extraordinary need overseas or on our doorstep.
I want to ask, simply, how reliable we are? How much are you – am I - a person of our word? How much can we be relied upon?
When I was growing up my mum drove a metro. It went backwards and forwards to the garage. She even tried to get a brand newone on the basis she had been sold a dud. Eventually, after spending many hundreds of pounds, she bought a polo. They looked similar but what she loved aboutthe polo was its reliability.
We’ve just been reading the comments on our survey into how you use Streetbank. I’m struck by how highly we hold this perhaps old fashioned virtue of reliability. The thing about Streetbank members, you tell us, is their friendliness, their generosity, their reliability. But by the same token, there were several comments about reliability, about times when someone let you down. They say they’ll collect something and then don’t turn up – perhaps don’t communicate that their plans have changed. Or they don’t think that we might have rearranged our diaries to be available then.
When we are on the receiving end of a change of plan, we mind.
What’s happened to erode our reliability? I think two things:
1. Technology makes it easier to tweak a plan. We can be reasonably confident that we’ll catch someone if life gets complicated.
2. Individualism has weakened our sense of responsibility. If it feels right we should do it. If it doesn’t don’t bother.
Often though honouring a commitment is costly – we’re tired, something has come up, we don’t feel great. For any commitment there are a thousand reasonable reasons not to honour it – and almost always every one of them surmountable.
I say this with trepidation – life is complicated and at some point this week I’ll let someone down – I’ll move an appointment or be a few minutes late – not because of necessity but just because of my own selfishness. Putting my needs before theirs. And as I do it, it will subtly erode their commitment to me – and I’ll use up a bit of my time and theirs rearranging.
Recently I read this from the great Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts.”
I wonder how good we are at being able to distinguish between an excuse and an insurmountable reason. I wonder where the line should be drawn between our needs (which are known) and the needs of the person we’re interacting with (which are usually not). When is it okay to be, to put it in the vernacular “flaky” and when is it not?
Any wisdom or rules of thumb would be most welcome!
A final thought – perhaps the line for most of us should be drawn a little higher. Certainly, it would be wonderful if we, the Streetbank community, consistently honoured our commitments – while extending grace to those around us if they don’t. That would be a truly generous community.