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Elton Trueblood

124. Elton Trueblood

Some years ago I read a story about the Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood. I believe at the time he was president of Earlham College. There was a young man who was considering attending Earlham and he was being interviewed by Trueblood. The young man was nervous and hoping that the interview was going well.

Then rather suddenly, Trueblood said, “Excuse me,” and he pulled a pad of paper over and started to write. He wrote for a few minutes, and the young man wasn’t sure what was happening. He didn’t know if Trueblood was writing something down about him or if he should be concerned.

And then Elton Trueblood put down his pen and looked at the young man and said, “Sorry—but a thought went through my head and I needed to capture it. I’ve found that if I stop whatever I’m doing and write it down, then I can come back and be wholeheartedly with you. Otherwise, while I’m talking to you, there’s a part of my brain that is trying to remember that thought, and I can’t focus on hearing you.”

I’ve always remembered that and actually put it into practice. Better to say “Excuse me,” and write the thought down, than to not be able to concentrate on the task at hand, plus the very real possibility that I lose the thought anyway.

I carry a notebook with me—small if need be—but something with which to capture the tumbling thoughts.

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