Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Makes A Man

This past weekend I participated in a negotiation tournament with my school. We flew out of state, tourneyed it up, and flew home. The experience of the weekend is not what drove me back to this blog to share a thought. It was the experience on the way home that I came back to this long-neglected place to write about.

One of the professors who had coached us and taken us to the tournament had offered myself and a fellow student a ride home. We came off the highway into a notoriously not so great part of town, and were driving through to drop my fellow student at his home. As we passed a street corner, we came upon a couple who were obviously fighting. The man was grabbing at the woman and yelling, while she fought to get away. Standing a few feet away was a small child, maybe 3.

We were already driving when we saw it, and were past the scene before we all registered what we saw. At that point, my professor slowed down, and you could tell he had a decision to make. He was a Lexus driving white law professor (though admittedly, the Lexus has 200,000 miles on it) in a predominantly African American neighborhood which is known for night time violence. He had two students who, while adults, were under his "care" as he drove them home, and he did not know what the situation we had just passed was really all about. BUT, he also knew that if he left it, and there was trouble, he would have been the guy who drove on by.

So he turned around. We went back. By the time we got there, the situation seemed to have diffused, and they were all in a car, getting ready to leave. There was no more violence visibly present. So we drove on.

In that moment, I got a closer look into what kind of a man my professor is, and I was humbly awed by it. I like to think it is because he grew up playing ball in New England, and that baseball players are just naturally good guys who never shy away from a fight when someone is in need. And that may have played a part in it. But what I saw went even deeper than that. What I saw was a man who knew that something had to be done, and, even though it was not technically "his business", he took the steps to make sure what needed to be done was.

As we drove away he said, "You know, back in my day, with three guys in the car, we would have swung back, jumped out, and explained to the guy he was going to leave the lady alone. Nowadays, you have to worry about guns." I share that to show that he was not planning on being some foolhardy movie star hero, who would jump out and set "those" people straight, ignoring danger and laughing in its face. He was going to call the police. He was going to make sure the child was not in danger. He was going to put himself in the place to do the right thing.

Which is impressive. I had spent the entire weekend with him, and knew I liked him, both as a professor and as a person. I had seen his friendly and affable side, and even been comforted by his words of encouragement. But tonight I saw something of the man he is made of, and it inspired in me a desire to be a man made of similar stuff.

Which I thought was worthy of sharing.

1 comment:

R.W. Shipshape said...

Your blog title piqued my interest as I am frequently pondering what makes a man and what makes a woman. I'm sure it's a long list of qualities connected to who we were truly made to be (not silly answers like men are strong and women wear high heels). Your story highlights that there is something more to what it means to be a man/woman and maybe it's not quite so flashy. Nice to hear from you!