I believe in quietly taking the High Road. It is so easy, or it can be so easy.
In 1969, I was a bitter, 16-year old boy at Cranston High School East in Cranston, RI. I am not exactly sure why I was so bitter—perhaps it was the usual growing pains, or lack of self confidence (especially with my peers) and lack of self-esteem that is all too common at that difficult age. I was traveling with my A cappella choir on a 12-day concert tour of several cities in Italy. At dinner one night in Venice, Gail Glen’s mother, a chaperone, complimented me about something for which I have long since forgotten. Unfortunately, my then-too-typical response was quite sarcastic—ugly comments that I have also long since forgotten. But I remember Gail Glen, who heard those horrible words, responding, “What did you say?” I mumbled something. “I heard what you said!” she flared.
And that was it, but Gail’s words haunted me from that very instant. I remember thinking why did I say those cutting remarks. Did they make me, Mrs. Glen, or anyone feel better? Was I incredibly clever? Was I funny? Clearly, all the answers were no. My sarcasm was just mean-spirited with no real purpose other than to hurt someone.
Gail’s honest and frank retort was an epiphany for me—truly a life-changing moment. Consequently, I went cold turkey on sarcasm. I literally changed overnight to become a better person, and I discovered that it was so easy to be nice with no expectations for reciprocation. Over the last 40 years, I have strived to refrain from all forms of sarcasm or unkind words about anybody and I believe I have done a reasonable job.
At my 25th High School reunion, I was lucky to find Gail Glen to first apologize for my rudeness to her, her mother, the other members of my choir, the world. It was no surprise that Gail had no recollection of the incident (or perhaps even of me), but I discovered that this closure was important to me. Much to Gail’s surprise, I gave her a left hook by thanking her for indeed changing my life to be that better person, to be nice, and to understand that there is good in everyone. Gail was quite touched by my sentiments and with tears streaming she sobbed, “Oh, that is nicest thing I’ve ever heard!” But it was Gail’s verbal slap in the face of 40 years ago that was the nicest thing I’ve ever heard which showed me the only road worth traveling.