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What Being A Decent Person Can Do

Franklin Evans, showing why the Evans-Manning Award was named in part for him:

I’ve experienced that combined sense of confusion and awe throughout my life, and it wasn’t until the following happened that I truly understood it… even if to this day I can’t really express it other than with telling this story.

In my previous career, I acquired a client whose name immediately intrigued me: Charles Colson. My new client was the very same man from the 70s, whose membership in the Nixon administration, prison term, prison ministry and punditry brought and kept him in the public eye until his passing.

My first phone conversation with him was very tense on my part. Being professional meant not asking the usual questions. He seemed grateful for my restraint in that first conversation, and over the next couple of years I became (unbeknownst to me then) someone he held in respectful regard personally.

I discovered that when I was fired from that job (more details omitted) and soon after hired by another firm. At a time soon after that when we’d in the past had our usual phone contact, my wife called me at work with an astonishing bit of news: Mr. Colson had, upon finding I was no longer with that previous firm, tracked down my home phone, found out from my wife where I was newly working (and in the same service field), and was about to call my boss and request that he bring his business there because I was there. My boss was duly impressed and immediately agreed. I had the pleasure and privilege of continuing to serve him until I left that firm and changed careers.

It all seems superficial and trivial to any objective observer, but never to me. In later years, as he waxed vocally (and loudly) conservative, and on issues about which I was vehemently opposed to him, my one thought was the respect and grace he showed to me as a person as well as someone to whom he paid a fee to provide him with a professional service.

It took a Watergate Plumber, vilified in the press and later mocked as well, to prove to me that if our first assumption of anyone is other than as a fellow human being, we are quite likely doing that person as well as ourselves a grave disservice.

I mourned his passing as I would that of any friend.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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