be kind

I left his office thinking how much I liked the man, how much he’d helped me over the years, and only then did I wonder how he was doing, suddenly fighting the strongest compulsion to run back, interrupt the meeting I’d left him to, fling open the door and ask. “How are you doing? Forgive me.” But it was too late.

All week others have listened to me. I’ve recited my future plans to them, the script honed, and I didn’t even mind, just reveled in the novel feeling of having an actual answer for what’s ahead. And they are truly eager to hear, because they are good people and good friends, so how better to display gratitude than to habituate myself to talking only about me? After all, I already know about them. I am the one embarking on courageous adventures, right?

No, not at all. I am the one arrogant enough to give only intellectual assent to the admonition be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle, a quote I’ve seen attributed to three different figures this week. All so much the less excusable because I know his battle, one of the hardest I can imagine. Am I just averse to others’ pain, afraid of what I’ll see behind his eyes projecting strength but fighting for hope? Am I afraid of my own inability to help, as if I should be ashamed to hold out only prayers?

The word sin has scarred many, and we shy from its harsh unbending accusation. Should I apply it to my distracted oversight, I imagine friends might offer brow-knitted consolations: don’t be so hard on yourself. Today, though, the distance from me to holiness yawns wide where I blithely babbled my excitement while he prayed that I would not be forgotten. Does he think I have forgotten?

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