A Story and a Question

Tuesday morning, there was a man sitting in the waiting area asking to see me. I had just got out of a meeting about curriculum design, so I was in the mood for just about anything to get the bad taste out of my brain. I walked into my office and opened up the blinds letting in the light from the hallway, and I could see that the man was already gathering his things ready for the shift to my office. I sat at my desk and rubbed my face. “What is this guy all about,” I thought to myself, putting my coffee mug, that reads “Keep Calm and Trust your Principal”, under my Keurig machine.

“Hello Mark Merrifield?” said the man extending his hand. “I’m Kenneth Johnson.”

“How are you Mr. Johnson, can I offer you a cup of coffee, I also have chai tea if you like.”

“No thank you, but I would like to talk about what I may offer you.” Getting right to the point.

“And what would that be Mr. Johnson?” I have been the Principal at De La Salle North Catholic High School for twenty years. I’ve seen my fair share of sales pitches pushing copy paper, SAT tutors, office supplies, you name it. I remember a guy selling nothing but staples. Later that afternoon I had a budget meeting, so if this guy could help me save a few hundred dollars on some expense, it might be worth the ten minutes he was asking.

“I want to offer you $25,000,000.” he said.

I smiled and grabbed my mug, blowing on top of the coffee to fog up my glasses as I like to do.

“Sure you do,” I said, “then I want to accept it.” My reply was meant as disbelief, but Mr. Johnson was all business.

“Wonderful.” He said reaching into a briefcase, placing an envelope on my desk.

“What’s this?” I asked, opening the top. Inside was a check made out to De La Salle North Catholic High School for $25,000,000.

“I’m sorry is this a joke?” I said to the man.

“I assure you it is not. I represent Oregon Pacific Investment and Development Inc. and I want to buy your land. I assure you that this is a very generous offer.”

“Generous or not, Mr. Johnson, I have no idea, but this is not something I can take from you even if I wanted to, I’d need to present this to the board of directors. De La Salle has been here for eighty-five years!”

Mr. Johnson plucked the check from between my hands and placed it back in his briefcase, as if to express impatience. “It’s funny how everyone seems to want money, but I can’t seem to give away the stuff! This would be such a benefit to your school.”

“Well, sir…” I stammered, made to realize that this guy was serious, “to be fair, it would not benefit our school at all, it would destroy it. I imagine you are going to plow everything to the ground and build condominiums…”

“A mall.” he interrupted.

“Well, then, a mall. Wonderful. So explain to me exactly who this money is for, and who does the money benefit really if the school that is to receive it will be destroyed by it?”

“Ahhh,” said Mr. Johnson. “Follow that question to the end and you have understood enlightenment. What is De La Salle High School if not just an idea. How to you pay an idea for its land?”

He got up, closed his briefcase and left the room. I haven’t seen him since.


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