Loyalty

   Wildwood, NJ 1978

Wildwood, NJ 1978

In a recent email to a friend, I remarked that she was one of those people who can “truly be remarkably loyal and dependable.” (I won’t recount my comment about the other kind of people.) She very kindly replied that I was “worthy of loyalty.” If you read my blog regularly then you know that I believe that words matter…those words mattered enormously. They mattered both because I hope to be a “loyalty-worthy” person and at the same time winning this particular friend’s loyalty is a valuable achievement…I’m as happy for her to think me loyalty-worthy as I am to have her loyalty.

This led me to realize that a few human relationships must be two-way—dual—or they fail. Loyalty must be met with loyalty-worthiness to be a completed act of loyalty: an intersection of complementary emotions. To attempt to be loyal to a person who is loyalty-UNworthy is sadly misguided; such intended loyalty is only an act of delusion or foolishness or ignorance. Or worse, the target of the loyalty may be guilty of intentional deceit, duplicity, or hypocrisy…on one side, the intended loyalty is pitiable; on the other, the deceit is contemptible. Such a relationship—devotion met with deceit—is still dual: an intersection of conflicting emotions…called “betrayal.” 

The same must be true of Trust, Dependence, Faith, Belief…all are devotions or commitments to someone of perceived worth. By definition, they must be two-sided relationships…they are paired, complementary emotions whose participants mirror one another. And they are all equally vulnerable to betrayal.

But I choose to enjoy and return my friend’s dual compliments to me: her loyalty to me and her belief in me. I’ve known betrayals, but I prefer to enjoy the loyalties, given and received. I could suffer the betrayals all over again and, to quote Shakespeare, “grieve at grievances foregone.” But I choose remembrances of good things past, so “All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.”

I love to remember my early summers in Wildwood, NJ, where I worked many years for a very loyalty-worthy man—Sid—and we enjoyed the dual qualities of loyalty. I worked in a boardwalk arcade where tourists played for coupons to claim prizes from the elaborate showcases. I got to know the “regular” customers who visited every night of their vacation and returned summer after summer for the familiarity of the arcade. I remember the night that an older couple, who had been very dedicated annual customers, asked me in hushed tones to “spot them” some extra coupons; their luck was falling short. I remember how scared and angry I was that they would ask me such a thing and put me in such a position. What I thought had been their loyalty to me and to the arcade instantly vanished. “You have one more night to play,” I answered. “Maybe your luck will return.” When I told Sid about their request and how angry I was, he looked at me with a sense of confident wonder. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.” At that moment, we each recognized our dual sense of loyalty to each other. 

The next night when the couple returned, Sid assigned me some inventory busy-work in the backroom; he handled the couple and their coupons and prizes…I don’t know if they’d been lucky or disappointed that night. I know that Sid and I were very lucky that night…and a dozen more summers that I worked for him.