An old friend of mine was recently arrested. His offense was ridiculous, and the best the local authorities could do was accusing him of a thinly veiled 5th degree misdemeanor. However, in this day and age, his exclusive address combined with his professional success made him an easy lightning rod, and the media had a field day at his expense.
After reading some of the articles about what had happened to him -- and even worse, the venomous anonymous comments that people were leaving about him online -- I picked up the phone and reached out to him. The funny thing is, I didn’t even wrestle with the thought of calling him. It just seemed to be the right thing to do.
We spoke at length, and he told me his side of the story. It was nice to catch up, and I could tell that he was really happy to hear from me. Then, he said something that really surprised and saddened me: “You know, you are the first person to call.”
This really got me to thinking, as he and I aren’t even that close. But when the going got rough, his closer friends seemed to scatter, waiting for the dust to settle.
My oldest son never finished sixth grade. Sure, he is now in 8th grade, but he missed the last two weeks at our local middle school and he never went back. He was having a hard time socially, and he crashed and burned in a manner that only he can.
As parents, we took the high road, got him the help he needed and placed him in a school that is better suited for his needs. Over time, my wife and I have moved on from all the craziness that we went through. But every once and a while, something pops back up, like an amusement park haunted house ride, to make us viscerally remember exactly where we were two years ago.
We were at a lovely Bat Mitzvah last week, and one of these reminders jumped out at us. We received the harmless looking place card with our table assignment and hit the cocktail hour. Our spirits were high, and everything was going well until they announced for us to take their seats... at a table filled with parents of some of my son’s ex-classmates. There was the typical small talk, and everything was fine until someone asked about “him”.
It is always strange when it is clear that people you barely know have WAY TOO MUCH knowledge about your life. Then, one of the women said the inevitable, “Well, we were going to call, but it was too difficult.” What is the correct response to this? I know that actions scream louder than words, but what do non-acted upon intentions say? Nothing.
A deeper cleansing breath…
What I am trying to share is the thought that I have seen these clouds from both sides now. And aside from owing Joni Mitchell a quarter, the call is easy to make and the recipient will always remember it. It’s a little like extending an invitation to someone that you know is going to say no. You might not necessarily be doing it for any reason other than letting them know that they mean something to you..and it's nice to be valued.