Last Sunday was a day of reflection. It usually is, but this one was especially troubling.
There were dual celebrations at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Our assistant pastor, the Rev. Pablo Migone, gave a final sermon. Hes been reassigned to a parish in Augusta. Also, the congregation recognized my daughter and her fellow Class of 2012 graduates. There was a breakfast in their honor after Mass.
Attendance at the meal suffered because of vacations and prior commitments. As a result, there was plenty of food. I ate my share and then some. Our group left as the servers packed leftovers.
Outside, we were approached by a 30-something man walking his bicycle toward the activity center. I say 30-something. It was hard to tell. His face was disfigured; probably from an accident or some kind of serious burn.
He greeted me and my group. I feigned some pleasantry as I passed him. Something about how good his bike looked. From behind me, I heard what Id been expecting.
I turned and walked back toward him. He said something about the bike being a gift from a charity. My suspicions were confirmed. He wanted money.
I pulled out my wallet and gave him the cash I had. It wasnt much -- four or five dollars -- but I put it in his hand and said, Good luck to you. As I rushed back to the car, I heard him call out, Bless you, sir.
Driving home, my sense of charity sprouting from the gesture quickly faded. I should have invited him into the activity center for breakfast, I thought. Worse, I realized I didnt even listen to what he said. For all I know, he wanted directions. I was too busy trying to avoid contact -- trying to ignore him -- to see him as anything more than an obstacle in my otherwise fine morning.
This just 90 minutes after Father Pablo spoke about service. This just moments after the breakfast organizers presented me and my family with a great gift. Given the opportunity to pay it forward, I failed.
Ironically, my talent, such as it is, involves observing and interviewing people. Through their answers and body language, Im able to craft stories detailing their accomplishments and trials. Sure, Ive made factual mistakes and typos, but Ive never had anyone tell me that I got them wrong.
But thats when Im on duty. Upon reflection, it seems that Im most interested in what a stranger has to say when theres something in it for me. I wonder how often I treat friends and family that same way.
Its not my nature to be outgoing and I suspect thats unlikely to change as I grow older. Still, when another human being makes an effort and initiates contact, I need to listen.
Upon reflection, my unwillingness to do so harms only myself. That gentleman probably had a great story to tell.
Contact Chris Deighan at firstname.lastname@example.org.