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Apr. 25th, 2005 @ 10:18 pm a question about actions
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Date:April 26th, 2005 11:49 am (UTC)
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It is a compelling argument, finishing in the black at the end of each day. Indeed, at the end of my tenure as a Jesuit Volunteer I recall musing about how, warts and all, my time was well spent because I was certain the world - that is, my students - was better for my being in an Inglewood classroom than if I hadn't been there. Unfortunately, it is not so simple as the lawyer would have us believe.

With a nod to Augustine, intent matters. It matters quite a bit. My time in L.A. was sanctified, so to speak, not only because of the net positive impact upon my students, but also because of my sincere intention to do right by them. This intent was measured by two standards: 1)the extent to which I followed the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm" and 2)my willingness to make amends for those transgressions I could reasonably have been expected to know. In essence, did I ever knowingly abuse a student (or roommate) and did I ever refuse to seek reconciliation?

These two standards make the world of difference to me, the teacher, and, by extension, to the lawyer. The willful abuse of another is the kind of crime that has no price. If I hurt one and save ten, the debt to the former is not canceled by the latter. It remains until such time as I make amends, forgiveness being the trump card that bests even those moments of human weakness we call vengeance and viciousness.

I would offer a far more exacting micro-standard to the lawyer. It is not on how we treat everyone that we are judged. Rather, it is how we treat the person right in front of us at a given moment that is the true measure. This series of individual encounters - none preparing us for or preventing us from the next - matters more than our final score at the end of the day. We aren't expected to be perfect day in and day out, but we are expected to try and seek forgiveness when we fail. In that way, a "good" outcome is possible at the end of our days, but we aren't expected to nail it on the first try.