It has occurred to me that there is a fine line between courage and stupidity. This occurs to me quite frequently and it came to mind again today, right after I sent the firewood guy packing.
Let me explain. We heat the house with a wood stove. We normally use 8 cords of wood per winter season, and currently have on hand approx. 2/3 cord. “Baby it’s cold outside” (Frank Loesser, 1944). The temperature around here can get to be minus 20 degrees, and heating with an electric furnace is not only futile, but wasteful and expensive. So, we use wood.
My husband and I are getting a bit older, so this year we opted to have someone deliver our wood. The person I used once 7 years ago is no longer available, so I went searching for a replacement. Contrary to popular opinion, wood guys are not a dime a dozen. They are hard to come by out here, and when you find one that is honest, you keep him. My search ended in a potential replacement that lives right down the road. I spoke with his wife, ordered two cords of wood, and she sent him over. He had already maneuvered down my driveway and was attempting to back into the wood area when I first saw him. He had a small trailer about the size of a compact Toyota truck bed with side rails. Inside this trailer was my wood.
He stopped trying to back up when he saw me. I said hi, and asked if that was my cord of wood in his trailer. He replied, “yup.” I nodded my head and asked, “is it dry and burnable?” He said, “yes.” I continued to nod my head as I walked towards the rear of the trailer. Now I know what a full cord of dry wood looks like, and that was not what was in that trailer. I know that is not a full cord, and he knows it’s not a full cord. I know the wood is not dry and probably not burnable, and he knows it too. I look at him, he looks at me, and then he says it: “Well, if you don’t want it just say so. We’ve got lots of customers to deliver wood to.” This is what I heard: “Well lady, I know that you know that I am trying to rip you off, but I’m betting you’re too desperate to refuse what is obviously a bad deal, or too stupid to know what you’re doing.” Wrong. Instinct takes over, my dirt bag alarm goes off, and I tell him to take a hike.
It was only after I get back into the house minus a pile of wood that it hits me. You know the feeling: the one you get when you’ve just been beaten out of the last chocolate nougat in the See’s candy box and you’ve been on a diet for two years. That feeling. The feeling that says you’ve just seen the last of that wood guy and you’re gonna freeze, dummy! I think you get the idea. The very next thought that popped into my head was: “There is a fine line between courage and stupidity. Have you just crossed it?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but doing the right thing is never stupid, and always courageous.
This time the choice seemed clear. It was wrong for the wood guy to try and cheat me. If I had allowed him to cheat me, that wrong would have been compounded. There was only one real choice, and that was to do the right thing and not allow him to get away with it. Fight for the light. Score one for “right,” zero for the wood guy. We will survive, and life goes on with one less victim.
I look at our corporate government and its lapdog mass media as dirt bag wood guys trying to cheat the public because we are too desperate to care or too stupid to know. The line between right and wrong is crossed over and over with these guys and we cannot let them get away with it. By letting them cheat us, we compound the wrong. The only right thing to do is fight for the light. Score for “right.” Tell the truth, even if it hurts.
This world would be a much better place if people in positions of public trust would make their decisions by weighing the difference between right and wrong instead of heading for the bottom line of a spreadsheet. I wonder what would happen if one day our leaders and town criers woke up and decided to do the right thing. What if they chose to fight for the light instead of plunging this country into darkness? What if media publications chose to print the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? What if today’s journalists started upholding the Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics and refused to bow down to corporate interests? What if these same journalists decided to stop selling the public good to the highest bidder? What if George Orwell’s 1984 was a fantasy and not a blueprint?
The difference between courage and stupidity is merely a decision away. With every decision we make, we either courageously stand up for what is right or wallow in our stupidity. Sometimes doing the right thing hurts, but as John Cougar Mellancamp would say, it “hurts so good.” By standing up for what is right, one person can change the world, one decision at a time.
As for my wood? Things will work out. They always do.
Copyright 2007, Barbara H. Peterson