(One generation to another, values seem to change or do they? We all have our house afire and we all have something we will run inside a burning house to save. This is a two part story that explores that scenario.)
Professor Boynton was hardly qualified to be a professor on ethics. He received his professorship by being unethical as an inside Wall Street stock trader. Those on the board reasoned who better to teach ethics than one who has broken all the rules and now sees the error of his waywardness.
He was found amusing for the most part and even at times arrogant as if he alone was now the bastion of what is ethical.
In time the class became poorly attended. Most where there in the beginning to hear how the master of Wall Street spun his magical web of deceit and duplicity and to at least mention sometime in the future they attended his class.
The day came. It was a long winded lecture not about ethics, but how brilliant he was when he asked the question: “Your home is on fire. Assume all animals are safe. What did you grab? Write it now on a piece of paper, sign it, and pass it forward”
Boynton collected the papers. He stood at the lectern and cleared his throat as he arranged them. He read the possession and name one after one. “Computer, Allison Trumbull; Photo box, William Grabowski; Jewelry box, Megan Hanthorn, Checkbook, Burton Henshel – and so it went on as each student nervously awaited their paper to be read.
Emerson knew when he got to his paper. Boynton sat it aside and continued reading the others.
“Mr. Emerson,” Boynton said. “Your paper is blank.”
“Except for my name, sir,” Emerson said.
“My clear instruction were…”
“I know what they were,” Emerson said.
“Than why didn’t you write something?” Boynton said.
“I did,” Emerson said. “My name.”
“Mr. Emerson!” Boynton said firmly. “What did you grab?”
“Nothing,” Emerson said.
“For the purposes of this exercise you grabbed something,” Boynton said with his jaw tightened. “Tell me what it was?”
“My life was enough, sir,” Emerson said. “I would not surrender my life for computers, pictures, checkbooks, or strong boxes. That is final.”
“The idea is to take what is most precious to you,” Boynton said. “If you don’t choose something in order to participate I will be forced to grade you accordingly. What now say you, Mr. Emerson?”
“I feel sorry for you, sir,” Emerson said. “A man who has sold his soul to retrieve what was in a burning house and still has not learned anything from it.”
Boynton looked scornfully at Emerson. “Tomorrow I will pose another question. Emerson, I shall give you a chance to redeem yourself.”
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