We did the right thing
I climbed the flight of stairs from the bookstore in the Kansas Union to the foyer of the main entrance and found myself face to face with a piece of my own history.
I had gone to KU to attend a seminar being offered by the clinical psychology department, one of the finest in the country. It was an ethics seminar being presented by a former student of the department, a well-known speaker and author of a book titled "Do the Right Thing." The premise of Thomas G. Plante's book is that ethics is about more than laws; it is about the moral and spiritual aspects of ethics as well.
He is a professor from St. Clara College and an adjunct professor at Stanford; his credentials are outstanding and his book is being touted as one of the better books on ethics. In spite of all of these things, I was not looking forward to spending three hours on a Friday afternoon attending a lecture when I could just as easily read the book.
I was grousing all the way of the upstairs when I ran into that slice of history that reminds me that life is about more than abstract principles of behaviors and mandatory continuing education. It is about the interweaving of people, places and time and all that can come out of that juncture.
There before me was a graduate student sitting studying. The sign behind her read: KU Info, 864-3506. I know that number by heart and was there when it was created. On the counter were red business-card holders, with the name of the center.
I wanted to grab someone and tell them the history of the center; how in May of l970, when the union burned and students revolted, some of us asked for and received administrative support to initiate a rumor control center, and from that center evolved the University Information Center. We had "done the right thing."
I tried to explain some of the history to the graduate student behind the counter. The history was, I think, lost on her. So many doors have been opened over the years that it just doesn't occur to some that the doors were ever closed. Because some students did the right thing, the ethical thing in the 1970s, it seems to students in 2008 that it was always that way.
And maybe that's when we know we have done something right with our lives. It happened without anybody really noticing, and with few remembering. Maybe that's what being ethical is about after all: doing the right thing when nobody is looking.
I picked up a few of the card holders; I wanted something to remind me of perhaps our greatest injunction: to do justice, to love kindness and walk humbly with your God - when no one is looking.