Sometimes I hesitate giving a piece of good advice to people because I wonder how they are going to take it. Will they appreciate it? Will they slough it off? Will they think, “I don’t need this guy. Why am I hanging with him?” Yet from my own experience, I have found that just a few words of advice can change or protect a life.
When I was drafted into the Army in 1968, my boss, Tom Cavanaugh, told me as I left his office one day, “Be sure to tell them you can type.” At the Army induction center, I remembered Tom’s advice. The clerk wrote “Types 33 word per minute” on the back of my personnel folder.
During my two years in the service, I served at two stations: Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and Long Bihn, Vietnam. I walked into the headquarters and presented myself to the sergeant in charge to find out where he would assign me. The first thing each did was look at the back of my personnel folder. When they saw I could type, they asked me, “You can type, Matous?”
“Yes, sergeant”, I replied.
Both said, “You’re not going anywhere, Matous. Sit down right there.” And they pointed to a nearby desk.
I spent my Army career typing even though I had become an excellent marksman in basic training. Due to Tom’s advice, I wasn’t sent out into the fields and rice paddies of Vietnam for combat. I am so thankful for his few short words of advice.
Now, when I think about whether I should give someone some advice, I picture myself standing on a street corner with him or her, waiting for the traffic to clear. I see a bus coming down the road towards us. I picture my friend or the stranger not seeing the bus and stepping off the sidewalk in front of it. Do I say to myself, “I don’t want to hurt his/her feelings. I’m not going to warn him/her about the bus.” Or do I give the warning and save him/her from the bus?
While some people may at first feel I have no right to interfere with their lives, I hope they will come to appreciate that the advice I gave led them to a better life, or may have even kept them from death as Tom’s advice could very well have done for me.
I have to maintain the courage to warn others and not worry about their feelings. I have to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another” as Jesus said. Have courage and take the risk.