People

“Write about a time the way you thought about someone changed.”

This is my favorite thing. And also why I believe and love how stories connect us. And why BrenĂ© Brown’s work on vulnerability resonates so strongly with me.

Several years ago I found myself reentering the work-force and finding myself catching up from 17 years of technology that advanced without me. I answered an ad for a temp job in a newspaper I wouldn’t normally have seen and only because the spirit whispered to me that I should.

Four months later our department took on new responsibilities, my job–while still flexible–became much more than temporary, I was hired as one of the supervisors and I found myself working with a young kid (most of the employees there were 20-something kids) who, even though our job titles were equal maybe 8 weeks seniority over me.

At first our relationship was a bit combative. He was smart. Much smarter than me in many things. And he was brilliant with computers. I find that often people who know their way around computers make assumptions about the intelligence of people who don’t, even though computers are just one thing among all the things there are to know in the world. Even though he was smart, he wasn’t always right. And I wasn’t afraid to speak up when I saw things another way. Sometimes that put us at odds with one another.

Then one cold snowy day I caught him in a moment of transparency. He spoke briefly about his little sister who had just been diagnosed with cancer and I caught a brief glance at his sorrow and worry. His heart.

Perhaps in part because cancer has left its mark on so many people I love, or perhaps because I have a place in my heart for rough people whose tenderness is buried deep, that was all it took. I found myself driving down Bulldog Avenue with windshield wipers swishing madly and tears running down my cheeks as I prayed for his sister.

And our working relationship thawed.

Another time–his last semester of school–I caught a brief look at insecurity and stress as he–one of the brightest people I know–worried over not being able to graduate because he couldn’t pass the ridiculous math class (as I recall, this class was so bad, the local newspaper wrote an article about how difficult it was to pass).

I left him with a few words of encouragement and may have prayed for him again.

And we became friends.

For a short time before he did pass that bear of a math class and graduate and move on, his wife taught school with my husband. And we used to laugh about how each one of us spent more time with the other’s spouse than we did with our own.

He did move on and has gone on to have a brilliant career. Which is mostly on the down low, for reasons I can’t discuss.

But once a year he comes back to town and we go to lunch with our former boss and catch up on old times. And we inevitably remark how despite moving on–in his case to much more prestigious things–we are grateful for and have never found anything quite like the team of people we were way back in the early days of this 100-year-old company’s transition into the digital world.

And I am grateful for how something as simple as brief moment of authenticity can illuminates someone’s truth in such a way that binds you to them in friendship and loyalty that transcends miles and years.

Recently I had an experience I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot with someone new. This person has no idea, for I kept it to myself. But I was justified in my indignation.

And God promptly put me in not one, but two circumstances which cast this person in a different light and made it clear I am not to judge, but to love.

For a minute or two I was uncomfortable. But I will forever be grateful.

[Day 67 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]