I’ve been thinking more about Viola Ruffner, Booker T. Washington’s high-expectation-employer turned forever friend. I think there are some similarities between her and the NYC Police. Here’s what I mean.
First, some background on Viola. She had a reputation as being a very difficult, demanding employer. So much so, that she had a hard time keeping hired help. She was just too stern, picky, demanding… After Emancipation, Booker T. was hired as the Ruffner’s houseboy.
As expected, in the beginning Viola would inspect Booker’s work and would usually send him back to do it over again, and sometimes yet again. At some point, when weeding the garden, Booker paused before calling Viola to inspect his work…and instead he decided to first do his own inspection.
He decided he’d better keep working.
He did a couple of rounds of this, and when she finally did come to inspect, she found no complaint.
Booker credits Viola with teaching him some of life’s most valuable lessons: diligence, hard work, faithfulness, honesty. She and her husband became supporters of Washington’s work, and Viola and Booker were lifelong friends. (The Ruffner and Washington families are still friends and had a reunion as recently as 2002.)
Now, what does Viola Ruffner have in common with the New York City police?
Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point? He has a section on the rampant, violent crime that was prevalent in the Big Apple in the 80’s. Crime rates dropped dramatically when the police established a no tolerance plan against subway turn-stile violators. By taking a firm stance against small infractions, overall crime – especially violent crime – greatly diminished.
By sending a clear message about the little things, a message was also sent about the large things.
I wonder if Viola Ruffner’s principles are not the same. Expecting faithfulness in the small things brings faithfulness in the large things as well. “He who is faithful in a very little thing, is faithful also in much.”