Not long ago, a friend of mine was huffing, puffing and carrying on something awful about an injustice she had recently suffered. She had dealt with someone rather devious and the result was, well, rather devious.
“Rest assured,” I told her with the full confidence of a self-anointed know-it-all, a tone I learned well from Mama. “He will get his comeuppance one day. The score is always settled. Always.”
The problem with the score being settled is that it often comes in a time not in agreement with our timeline. We want it immediately. Normally, it comes a bit further down the line and often when it does come, we no longer care. But it comes. Good follows good, bad follows bad. I finally figured that out, so I try hard to mind my P’s and Q’s and do everything in the way that I want to receive it back.
Daddy and Mama both taught strong lessons. It is their advice and sensibilities that guide my life more than anything. Daddy firmly believed that you kept your word. At all costs. It is one of the strongest guiding principles of my life. It sits at the core of everything I do. And sometimes it has cost me a lot.
Twice in recent time, I’ve gotten bitten by speaking engagements. One was a church in Seattle, Wash., whose ladies had claimed to gather together and pray fervently for direction on hiring a speaker. Their prayer, they claimed, led them all across the country to me. We came to an agreement, I turned down another engagement for the same weekend but suddenly, their prayers forgotten, they cancelled the contract.
A couple of months later, it happened with another speaking engagement. Again, keeping my word, I had turned down a fantastic opportunity for a trip. This time the nonprofit cancelled a week out.
Yes, I get mad. I think unholy thoughts. Then, I get sad about churches and nonprofits not being honorable and keeping their word. For what it’s worth, and oh I do hate to tell you this, I have never had this happen with a for-profit company. Ever. On the few occasions it happens, it will always be a church or nonprofit who believe that because they are doing ministry and charity, that the rules of honor and decency do not apply to them. I can only find comfort in knowing that I did the right thing in keeping my word and that I will eventually reap from that.
On the other hand, there are times that keeping my word has given me much. Like when my friend, Karen, invited me to Los Angeles for the Grammy awards. She was nominated for the second straight year and the previous year, I had to miss the awards for a speaking engagement in Savannah. I promised, “If you’re nominated next year, I’ll be there.”
The awards were two weeks away and, suddenly, I panicked. I couldn’t afford the time to go because I was on deadline with a book. And the airfare was outrageous. A weekend there would be ridiculously expensive. “I won’t go,” I said and closed my laptop where I had been searching for flights. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned as Daddy’s words rang in my ears, “When you give your word, you keep it. No matter what it takes.”
I threw back the covers somewhere after midnight, went to my laptop and booked the flight. The day of the Grammys, something moved me to check my office messages. A Los Angeles producer was calling, asking to interview me by phone for a movie he was writing on NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki, who had been a good friend of mine. I returned his call and said, “I’m in L.A. and I could meet you for coffee, if you like.”
And that is how I met my husband.
Being honorable does pay off.