Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Have you ever wanted to be a friend to someone but not sure what that looks like?  Have you ever wanted someone to come alongside you and lift you up through thick and thin?  These two examples are at opposite ends of the spectrum, for sure, but both require a commitment....a matter of accountability.  To understand what that means, we need to define what it IS to be accountable. 

As a term related to governance, accountability has been difficult to define.  It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, for example, "A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A's (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case
of eventual misconduct".

But could misconduct take place on both sides of the relationship?  Could B be only "half-in"?  Here is a story that can provide a visual image, albeit one that hits home all too often...... 

Denver was the first to break the silence.  "What's your name again?"


"And what's your wife's name?"


"Mr. Ron and Miss Debbie,"  he said, allowing a smile to escape.  "I'll try to remember."

Then his smile faded into seriousness, as if he'd had a rare light moment then someone had closed the blinds.  He stared down at the steam rolling up from his coffee cup.  "I been thinkin a lot about what you asked me."

I had no idea what he was talking about.  "What did I ask you?"

"Bout bein your friend."

My jaw dropped an inch.  I'd forgotten that when I told him at the Cactus Flower Cafe that all I wanted from him was his friendship, he'd said he'd think about it.  Now, I was shocked that anyone would spend a week pondering such a question.  While the whole conversation had slipped my mind, Denver had clearly spent serious time preparing his answer.

He looked up from his coffee, fixing me with one eye, the other squinted like Clint Eastwood.  "There's somethin I heard 'bout white folks that bothers me, and it has to do with fishin."
He was serious and I didn't dare laugh, but I did try to lighten the mood a bit.  "I don't know if I'll be able to help you," I said smiling.  "I don't even own a tackle box."

Denver scowled, not amused.  "I think you can."

He spoke slowly and deliberately, keeping me pinned with that eyeball, ignoring the Starbuck's groupies coming and going on the patio around us.  "I heard that when white folks go fishin they do somethin called 'catch and release.' "

 Catch and release?  I nodded solemnly, suddenly nervous and curious at the same time.

"That really bothers me," Denver went on.  "I just can't figure it out. 'Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that'll look.  Then we eat what we other words, we use it to sustain us.  So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water."

He paused again, and the silence between us stretched a full minute.  Then:  "Did you hear what I said?"

I nodded, afraid to speak, afraid to offend.

Denver looked away, searching the blue autumn sky, then locked onto me again with that drill-bit stare.  "So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me:  If you is fishin for a friend you just gon' catch and release, then I ain't got no desire to be your friend."

The world seemed to halt in midstride and fall silent around us like one of those freeze-frame scenes on TV.  I could hear my heart pounding and imagined Denver could see it popping my breast pocket up and down.  I returned Denver's gaze with what I hoped was a receptive expression and hung on.

Suddenly his eyes gentled and he spoke more softly than before:  "But if you is lookin for a real friend, then I'll be one.  Forever."  - From "Same Kind of Different as Me" by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

Let me ask you a question today.  How many friends do you have?  Real friends.  And how many people are you a real friend to? If you are honest with yourself, the answer will be, not many.  Are the vast majority of us "catchers and releasers"?

I'm not going to go any further into this right now.  I just want you to stop and reflect and ask yourself a couple more questions.  What;s a friend?  Am I a good friend?  Who would turn to me for help if they needed......and who could I turn to if I need it? 

Seems to me Denver went right to the heart of the matter.  "If you is fishing for a friend you just gon' catch and release, then I ain't got no desire to be your friend.  But if you is lookin for a real friend, then I'll be one.  Forever".    



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