What Does It Cost?

He is an old man.  No really. He is closing in on his eightieth year.  Yet, there he stands looking at me.

He is waiting for my approval.  Mine!

A confident man, he has always struck me as almost arrogant.  He strides in wearing his suit and tie, with a black felt fedora shoved back on his head.  One after another he reaches for the most expensive guitars on my wall and strikes the strings, shaking his head disapprovingly after each successive trial.

“It just doesn’t have the ring I’m used to,” he gripes.  “Give me an old Martin any day.  These Chinese don’t know how to make a guitar.”

I won’t argue.  Not that it would do any good.

Every other time he has walked in my door, he has left with his head held high, the last thing I see of him, the top of his fedora set on the back of his proud head.

Not today.

His friend has set the scene by bragging about the old man’s accomplishments.  The words he uses are professional and talented.

I don’t know what to say.  No wait!  I do know what I want to say.

What I want to say is, “Yeah, we get lots of guys just like him in here every day.”

I want to put the old man in his place.  I want him to leave here more humble than he was when he arrived.  I want him to understand that I hob-nob with better musicians than he is nearly every day.

This old guy just rubs me the wrong way.

Perhaps if I knock him down a peg or two, I can make him understand how important I am.

Suddenly, I look–really look–at the old guy in front of me.  He’s just an ordinary, aging man, wondering if he’ll ever again feel that sense of accomplishment he knew when he was young.  He wonders if all the good things are behind him, and he’s struggling to hold onto the memory of the proud moments he has experienced.

With the words, “…even song-writer of the year.” his friend has stopped talking and now they are both looking at me, obviously awaiting a response.

My mind is going a mile a minute to cipher out the dilemma I’m faced with.  A mile a minute may not be fast enough.

What is so hard about muttering a few complimentary words?  Am I afraid I’ll look smaller because of making this old man feel good about himself for a few moments?

Who’s the prideful man in this room now?

Glancing in the face of the old man standing before me, I see the look of a child awaiting the approval of his or her father.  Head cocked to the side, he pleads silently for me not to let him down in front of his friend.

What would it cost me to say something nice?

The Lovely Lady often tells me that I’m too hard on myself when I relate these little personal episodes.  Funny.  I usually feel that I’m not tough enough in my assessment.  Then again, sometimes I feel like I’m boasting if I tell you how well I did in a given situation.

I think for now, I’m just going to leave it right there, with the proud old man and the proud shop keeper standing at the counter.  Someday, the rest of the story may be told, but not tonight.

Whether I passed the test or not is of no consequence.  Well, not, at least, as far as the reader is concerned.

What does matter is if there is anything to be learned, any lesson to be taught, regarding how we are to treat old proud men.  Or young, timorous school kids.  Or rude, passionate teenagers.

There is much more to be said on the subject.  Perhaps your minds are going a mile a minute as you consider what that is.

Perhaps the answer will come, in time.

What does it cost?

Really.  What does it cost?

Will you pay the price?

Will I?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
(Philippians 2:3 ~ NIV)

“If only I had a little humility, I would be perfect.”
(Ted Turner ~ American businessman/founder of CNN News)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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