I needed somebody to fix something in my house. I called a repairman. He said he could come out in two hours. In spite of having hoped to get some solid, uninterrupted time to concentrate on some projects, I said, "Come on over."
I was business-like and, I hope, pleasant enough. But I wasn't particularly warm or curious about him or about his life experience. I was thinking I just needed the toilet to stop leaking.
As he was leaving, somehow a conversation about his car having been wrecked turned into an admission that it hadn't exactly been a good season. His wife died on Christmas morning. In the midst of having the ambulance come to get her, it was discovered that he had too many cats, and so they were taken away too. His son moved away recently, leaving him without a car, and his other two children have had rough break-ups, one just yesterday.
He said, "I'm doing a little better, but for a long time I just cried." I said, "Well I'm going to cry now." And I did.
I had almost let a grieving person walk in and out of my house without hearing his story and naming the pain of it. And letting him see my tears on his behalf.
I hope he felt a little less alone to tell someone, but I almost missed seeing his brave face and watching him walk slowly to his company van, heading home to ... what?
I just wanted the toilet fixed and wasn't much thinking about the human who would come and do it.
But now I am.