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Looking for God: an Ongoing Tale - Nice guys don't always have to finish last

Michael Veenema | Interrobang | Opinion | February 20th, 2006



Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
“Hi Mitch!” Tamara sits down in a booth for her weekly lunch with the former college chaplain. “You keep showing up every week. I don't think I've often said thank you, but I do appreciate it.”

“You're welcome. I enjoy our get-togethers, even when you ask tough questions. Besides, the service here is always friendly.”

“Even when I'm not, eh! Anyway, here's my friend Todd. Todd is in construction technology.” Todd and Mitch say hello as Todd finds a seat beside Tamara.

Tamara continues. “I was telling Todd about you and how you try to find something to respond to any question I raise. So, he asked me if religious people like yourself have anything practical to say to people. He likes to work with materials and isn't really into, you know, religion, gender questions, global events, and things like that.”

“You mean, more practical than ‘love our neighbour as you love yourself,' and ‘get to know God?'” Todd looks a little uncomfortable but Mitch tries to set him at ease. “Ok, sorry. I think I see what you might mean. How about if we try for something a little different?”

Todd seems relieved. The food arrives and Mitch decides to try a couple of ideas on Todd and Tamara. “Well, I would say, to start with three things: Work hard. Be honest. Be generous.”

Todd thinks for a moment, taking a sip of his cola. “I hear what you are saying. But I notice a lot of people who seem to get by just fine not working very hard and telling plenty of little lies. A lot of people who aren't very generous seem to be pretty happy. You know the old saying, ‘Nice guys finish last.' You're telling me to be nice but I don't know if that's such a good idea.”

“I like to think that I'm not telling you to be nice.”

“What do you mean?”

“I'm telling you to be wise.”

Todd looks a little miffed by this. “Explain that to me.”

“Well, it may be true that some people are okay with avoiding work and being dishonest. But the way the social world works, they almost always do better if they are hard working, honest and generous.”

“You mean like at school, for example.”

“Yeah, students who don't work hard get lower grades than they could get, and that will impact their ability to get work later on. And students who cheat, who are dishonest, are setting up a pattern in life that will help lead to failure unless they change.”

“So, nice guys don't finish last?”

“I like to say it differently. Wise people have better lives.”

“Okay, but I still need to be convinced to be generous.”

“Let me put it to you this way. ‘An echo in the wood always returns your own call.' Or, ‘Whoever refreshes himself will be refreshed.'”

“Is that supposed to be from the Bible?”*

One of them is.”

Tamara puts in, “I thought you'd say that the best way to do well in life is to pray.”

“Yes, that too is very important.”

“But what if I'm not a Christian?”

I would say, “Try it anyway. God can respond to anyone.”

*The first quotation is a saying used by Anne Lamott in Travelling Mercies.

Continued next week
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