I had four encounters yesterday, all with men, that told me something about the way I face life every day. In three instances, I asked and the door opened. In the fourth, I told (told someone off, actually) and all I heard was the door slamming in my face. You’ve got to wonder when I will learn. When will they ever learn?
Case #1: I was sitting over coffee with a friend early in the morning. We were having a good time kidding each other about sports, especially about our comparative inadequacies in a particular sport—you know, the locker-room mockery that is supposed to be funny. Then during a lull in the conversation, I saw an opening for a serious question: How was my friend’s business going? I knew it probably wasn’t going great, and I felt for him. In an instant we moved from the locker room to the confessional.
Case #2: A young professional asked if he could come to my office for advice about a book project. I am no longer a book publisher, so as my aging father once said to me in another context, I can look but I can’t do anything about it anymore. Consequently, I thought the fifteen or twenty minutes with this young man would be a waste of my time, but as he talked I was touched by his sincerity. He began to tell me, tangentially, some of his back story, and at one moment I asked, “Who was your mentor?” You would think that I had asked about a dearly beloved family member who had died recently. His lips began to tremble slightly, his eyelids pooled, and he looked up at the photograph of Pope John Paul II on my office wall.
Case #3: For the past few days, some of us have been dealing with an illness “in the family.” The focus has been on the friend who is ill and that friend’s condition, and rightly so. The friend is frail and in jeopardy. But there is a friend of the friend who has been watching from the sidelines, and that friend of a friend is also a friend of mine. He, call him W., is affected by our mutual friend’s situation more than most people, yet no one seems to wonder how the situation is affecting W. I’ve wondered, but until last night, I didn’t ask. (That word again.) I called W. on the phone and asked. In fact, I asked him to dinner at my house. You would have thought I had offered him a million dollars.
Case #4: Well, you know the usual scenario, I don’t have to go into the details: Someone does you dirt and you pop off. That’s what happened. I popped off at someone, call him J., whose behavior had been, I thought, unjust toward me. What I received, in this order, was (1) an admission from a third party that what I was upset about was not J.’s doing at all but hers and (2) a good, solid, well-deserved rebuff from J. a few hours later, which effectively slammed the door between us. When will I learn? When will I ever learn?
Maybe if I had remembered what Christ said about the door, and knocking on it, and its opening up for me, case #4 might have been another little miracle, like the other three.