Why So Immodest?

Some people can’t do anything without calling attention to it. Others stay in their quiet place doing things that are covertly amazing.

When I was 16 I had the privilege of traveling to Italy with some other students in my school. While riding the tour bus through the rainy Italian countryside, we stopped in a small town and went into a castle-like building that looked like an art gallery. The guide led our group up the stairs where against the far wall an old man sat hunched over a lamp. When we approached we saw that he was lost in his work, squinting through a jeweler’s magnifier which he held in place between his frowning brow and flexed cheek. In his hand, an ivory cameo was taking shape—a miniature work of art carved in ivory.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5

The next thing I saw was his thumb, which because of a callus seemed twice its normal size. The man was close to 100 years old and had been working at his craft around 80 years, if I’m remembering correctly. The strokes of his tools seemed effortless.

And there he sat, silently. He never said a word to our group. He was too diligent creating beauty that spoke for itself.

I want to be the kind of person whose value is discovered. So many in our time leave everything out on the table and there’s nothing left to mine, no thrill in the search, no sense of wonder when the full picture comes into view.

Modesty is underrated.

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