Your word. Your deed.

Mark - Angel Fire, New Mexico
Entered on October 4, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, integrity
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Some time in my youth I guess I heard “your word is your bond,” or you are “judged by your deeds.”

After a few accidental realizations, it dawned on me that I had discerned a life pattern: Don’t believe everything you hear about people!

Time and again when I finally met someone whose reputation for something unsavory, illegal, unkind, or just plain rudeness had preceded them, I found nothing of the sort. In MY dealings with them, in THEIR actions towards me, and in my entire encounter and often longer term eventual friendship with them, I found I could only access a person’s actions or detractions from personal experience, not from rumor.

If I could pinpoint one example which solidified my feeling that I am on the right track with this belief it would be a freezing January day when my Boy Scout troop was on an annual “Jack Frost” camping trip at Fort Tilden, Rockaway, Queens, New York.

Sitting in a sliver of sandy beach at the entrance to New York Harbor, and whipped by winds, the tents could barely stay stuck into the ground in gale winds, sleet and snow. It was winter. My dad was working six days a week, but had promised that when he got off of his job Saturday night at the grocery store where he worked he would come out to Fort Tilden and bring a “surprise” for the Scouts.

Dad had no car and took two busses on the long trek to Rockaway. The bus stop was at the entrance to Fort Tilden, and the walk must have been one to two miles, fighting the wind and sleet all the way, I the dark with something perched atop his shoulder.

If you knew nothing about my Dad other than his promise to be there, with a surprise for the frozen campers, you probably would be able to sum up his personality at the first meeting when he poked his frosty head into a tent and said, “Okay guys, here’s your watermelon!”

As he peeled off his wet topcoat he put the 12 or 15 pound watermelon on the floor of the tent, and regaled us with stories of his own Boy Scout days.

I don’t know if I’ve ever done anything that dramatic to spark my own kids’ feelings that if I could be judged by one incident instead of innuendo I would want it to be THAT moment. But, this I do believe, if you reserve judgment about someone until you can experience their personality for yourself, you’ll probably make fewer mistakes in life.