From the time we were four, Bill Moore and I have been close friends and de facto members of each others families. The family was presided over by W.E. (Preacher) Moore the pastor of Ocala’s First Christian Church and his wife Coleen. In the Moore family there were three brothers: Bill the youngest, Doug the middle son and Johnny the oldest. Over the years I came to know that if there were mischief to be had, Doug would get into it.
When he was 16, out past his curfew and knowing his father was waiting up for him, Doug tried to sneak in through his bedroom window. He calculated that if he could creep into bed without being seen or heard, he could convince his father that sleeping, he didn’t hear him come in. He persuaded Bill to open the window and unlock the screen; however, as he was climbing in, he looked up to find his father looking down at him. Preacher Moore ordered him to go to the front door and enter properly; when he opened the door, he greeted his father with a smile and “Hi Preach.” I can picture his father struggling to suppress a smile as he delivered a sermon his middle son was not likely to forget.
When I was 12, I took part in the Ocala Cotillion. The Cotillion had two purposes: to teach you how to dance and proper etiquette. The end of the season dance was held at the municipal golf course and Doug’s band was playing. Our parents chaperoned and did their best to insure that when dancing we stayed a proper distance from our partner. I’m not quite sure we understood why we might want to get close to a girl or even if we wanted to get close but our parents were making sure that proper decorum was maintained. The band played the song, The Sloop John B, to which Doug added an extra verse:
“The stewardess got stewed
Ran around the poop deck nude
And then 16 hands started to roam
I want to go home.”
I saw my father and Preacher Moore struggling to stifle their laughs; my mother standing with a confused look on her face and—as he started to sing the verse a second time—Doug’s mother headed to towards the band. Again, he was in big trouble.
We were hosting a golf tournament in Ocala and I invited Doug, now the pastor of the church his father had led, to join us. I placed Doug in a foursome with two guys who drink a fair amount of “swing-oil” as they play golf. About 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the tournament, his partners came to me incensed that I had placed a minister in their foursome. “We’re here to have a good time and you have us playing with a preacher!” I assured them it would be all right; anyway, I had no other place to put him. Later, as he handed me their scorecard at the end of the tournament, one of them grabbed me by the arm and exclaimed, “This was one of the best days ever. Doug’s in our foursome from now on.” Afterward, I discovered that Reverend Moore had purchased the first round of beer.
Doug’s health failed and the week before last, he passed away. At his memorial service, a close friend of his, also a minister, delivered the eulogy and caught my attention when he said, “Doug had one foot firmly planted on earth and the other in heaven. Because he was so human, he could understand and better minister to his congregation.” It struck me that this is a lesson for all of us.
Empathy for others, makes better parents, friends, leaders and sales people. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another provides an understanding of their decisions and actions. With empathy our response to others is shaped by our grasp of their challenges, concerns and problems; a comprehension that leads to helping to solve their challenges and developing long-lasting relationships.
Rather than excusing, empathy furnishes the underlying foundation for the response to bad behavior. Grasping and sharing the feelings of another softens our reaction and provides the opportunity to address the root of poor conduct.
At the memorial service, the church—not a small one—was overflowing with people. Although the observance was uplifting, the grief was heartfelt. It was obvious that the people of his congregation were going to miss Doug greatly. They knew him well enough that they nodded their heads and laughed out loud at the outrageous stories told about him. They loved him because, understanding their weaknesses and strengths, he was one of them.
You got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning” – Bob Dylan, Positively 4th Street
“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as yours.” – Henry Ford