Our initial response to events is often the best measure of personal character. This past week I discovered that a company had taken something I’d written and posted it to their website without attribution, causing it to look like it was their original work. Their response to being made aware of this showed me something about their true character. But it reminded me of a wonderful instance of shared ‘character’.
When I was in my late teens I ran with a group of friends in the mountains of far norther California. This was a typical group of young guys. We would tell dirty jokes, drink beer and whistle at pretty girls. In the Summer we would go water-skiing every weekend morning usually with some girls included. We often cruised out to an island on the lake, offloaded most of the people, coolers, etc., onto the beach and took turns water-skiing.
All through the early Summer I had had my eye on Kim, a very pretty girl who was about a year younger than I. She was one of those people who genuinely didn’t seem to realize how beautiful she was. Very sweet and very shy described this sensitive girl. We all knew her and liked her.
Finally getting the courage, I’d asked her to join us to go out on the lake, and she accepted. She wasn’t much of a water skier though. The guys were all laying on the beach on our backs but propped up on our elbows watching her ski in the distance and making appreciative comments about her physical gifts. At the end of her run the boat whipped her back toward shore. When she was in about three feet of water, perhaps 20 feet from the beach, we all watch as she flopped forward over her skiis gracelessly into the water. Normally that would have gotten her jeers and a round of applause. But when she lifted herself out of the water her soaked hair covered her face, and her bikini top no longer covered her breasts.
It was in that instant between us all seeing her naked breasts and her clearing the hair and water from her eyes, that the group spontaneously demonstrated its character. Without anyone saying a word, we all instantly flipped over onto our bellies with our faces pointed away from the beach, as if none of us could possibly have seen her nakedness since we were all looking in the opposite direction. Had it been one of the other girls we often skied with, the response would more likely have been cat-calls, and hooting-and-hollering. But, we all knew that this girl would have been mortified. And in that instant my gang demonstrated a genuine degree of kindness. That’s character!