The parable below was originally taken from Scott Rayburn’s Presentation Coach blog. I believe it has application far beyond public speaking.
Ancient Roman Architects
Throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, there are enduring structures from a past civilization that once controlled almost all of the known world 2000 years ago. Though that civilization has since disappeared, their mark remains upon two continents millennia later. There are remnants of near impregnable fortifications, immense arenas and amphitheaters, and vast public plazas and imposing temples, all built by the ancient Roman empire.
Perhaps most impressive are the great aqueducts. These aqueducts were mammoth public works spanning broad valleys to bring water across terrific distances to towns and cities. Incredibly, after two millennia of wars and natural disasters, many of these aqueducts — built without structural steel or similar “modern” technologies — continue to stand. Some still carry water today. They are remarkable monuments to design, engineering, and building skill.
How have these aqueducts survived when most later generations of buildings long ago crumpled into rubble?
The key is the way Roman builders were held personally accountable for their efforts. Legend has it that as the supporting scaffolding and other temporary buttressing were removed for the first time, the designers and chief engineers would be required to stand beneath the arches. It was their code, their standard of professional performance, to be the first proof of their respective talents, the ultimate show of confidence that the job was done right and the resulting product indeed was ready to present to the world.
Two thousand years later, those aqueducts constructed with such care and effort still stand.
More Personally Accountability
Just imagine for a moment how much better our stewardship would function if we would be crushed the moment it showed signs of failing. If we were crushed for a late homework assignment or a ill-prepared report, then there would never be a late homework assignment, and each report turned in would be gone over with a fine-toothed comb.
The hard part is that these days there is no external body to impose such severe punishment on us as we fail in our responsibilities. It is up to us to realize what is at stake, and what could be lost if we under perform.
Granted, a few late homework assignments and a bad report or two won’t mean the end of the world. Still, some of our stewardships are of great importance. What if we are looking after the welfare of others, particularly their spiritual welfare? Failing means that someone moves away from our Heavenly Father, perhaps making choices that are extremely difficult to come back from. Failing means untold pain and hardship, rocky roads filled with tears for those that might have avoided such pain if they’d only been cared for more carefully and guided more surely.
May we, in our leadership responsibilities, be like the Roman engineers. If we remember the potential and worth of those we serve, it will be easier to do all we can. Then, like the Roman aqueducts and other structures, those we serve will stand strong throughout their entire lives, and make countless differences of their own. That’s a legacy worth working towards.