In my capacity as office manager at the beautiful Krishna.com, I have such a variety of duties. From making sure the offices are kept clean, to making schedules for the customer service ladies, to stocking supplies, checking that the segments of Prabhupada’s books go out on schedule, and any number of other responsibilities, I have no shortage of interesting and useful things to do. One is to assist our accountant in keeping the books. So today he bounced one set of numbers back to me, reminding me that I’d forgotten to subtract a particular credit from a store customer’s purchase amount. He had caught my error and gone ahead and corrected it. “Sorry,” I said, when he handed it back to me, and “thank you,” because he’d fixed my mistake.
Saying those two phrases together reminded me of a true story I’d heard some years back, from a talk given by a motivational speaker. There was a prison for the criminally insane. It was very hard to keep the place staffed, as the atmosphere was so stifling to the human spirit. They were constantly having to hire new workers. Fights often broke out among the prisoners. The psychiatrist had just resigned, and the managers had found a possible replacement. When approached about the position, the person (I’ve forgotten his name; he was Hawaiian by birth) said he would take the job, on two conditions. First, he would be given a private office and the files of all the prisoners. Second, he would not meet any of the inmates in person. It sounded like a strange request, but no one else was applying for the position. He got the job.
What he did was to sit in his office, pick up one person’s file at a time, read through it, and then, while looking at the picture of the inmate, he would say these four simple phrases, over and over again:
I’m sorry. . .please forgive me. . . thank you. . . I love you.
He might put them in a different order, but this was his daily practice, eight hours a day. After a few weeks, people began to notice a change in the atmosphere. In-fighting between inmates diminished. There was less and less turnover of staff. People began to reform, and to be pardoned and released, something that had not happened before.
Whenever I recall this (true) story, I try to put the principles into practice in my own life. One lesson is that you don’t need to be in someone’s presence to have a powerful influence on their life. You can pray for them, and trust that Krishna (who is sometimes described as Time’s own self) will work His wonders within their heart. One thing that strikes me in this example is the absence of blame or name-calling. Rather than read the record and think
I could never do such things,
the good doctor found some way of feeling empathy for the offender. Perhaps he knows that in Kali-yuga, both demon and devotee live in each of us, so he was able to see that these prisoners had become victims of our common enemies: lust, greed, anger, envy, lamentation, illusion. Maybe he was saying,
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to prevent you from succumbing to these forces.
In any case, I was happy to have the chance to remember this anecdote this morning. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. […] Forgive me if I’ve said anything that disturbs. I love you for being part and parcel of Krishna, whom I certainly hope to learn to love purely, one of these lifetimes. Adios!