My wife didn’t know what to expect the first time she met my dad, and I wasn’t sure how to prepare her for it. As I explained to Raquel, “My dad is like — I don’t know — this truck driver preacher who talks to everyone he meets. He’s kind of eccentric.”
I was in a bad mood on my way to church last weekend, and it had everything to do with the woman driving in front of me. She was going about five miles an hour down a one-way street in Washington, D.C., while looking at her phone.
Several years ago, I made friends with a guy who volunteered at the same organization as me. He seemed like he wanted to be good friends, but he didn’t act like much of one. Sometimes he passive aggressively insulted me; other times he flattered me. He could be aloof, and then he could be clingy. But I stuck around because we had known each other for a while, and I felt like I owed it to him.
It was Christmas of 1984, and my mother crammed my three older siblings and me into a compact car and took us to Arkansas to celebrate the holiday. I vaguely remember it — my mother, on the other hand, remembers it quite clearly. Apparently, it was pretty rough. No doubt, putting one adult, two older teenagers and two small boys into a small car for six hours was a recipe for disaster. One of us — I shall not say who — was behaving horribly and Mom couldn’t seem to get control of the situation. She was exasperated nearly the entire time.
A few years ago, I had a coworker who was particularly unfriendly from the start. She barely even acknowledged me when I’d see her and say hello. Then one day, it changed.
One time I was at the bus stop and I saw a woman take her daughter by the ponytail, pull up, and force her to move down the sidewalk. As the girl walked forward, she tried to reach up and pull her mother’s hand away, to no avail. As the little girl cried and begged her mother to stop, a man standing nearby laughed about it, and the mother began laughing, too.
I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday. I took my three kids to the service by myself because my wife wasn’t feeling well. The journey started out well enough — we were in the car and only running 12 minutes behind when we pulled out of the driveway. But it was all downhill from there.
I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I had Jeffrey Mitchell, and I needed him. Some of the popular boys had started making fun of me, so I was growing increasingly uncomfortable in my own skin. Jeffrey didn’t seem to care. We spent time at each other’s houses, hung around each other during recess, and sat next to each other when we had the same classes. This included Mrs. Silkman’s seventh grade English class where unfortunately, our friendship came to an abrupt end one day.
There are very few sports events I’ve ever cared about, and when there’s an exception, it’s a big deal. The last time it happened to me was in 2001.
Several years ago I knew this guy who wanted to be good friends, but he didn’t act like much of one.
During my junior year at the University of Southern Mississippi, I invited a Yugoslavian student to a campus worship service that was organized by my church, which was predominately white. After the meeting, we were talking in the hallway, and he noticed a group of mostly black students meeting across the hallway. Then he asked something that caught me off guard. “Why do the white Christians and the black Christians meet separately?”
One time, I told my friend Steve that I was going to ask God to humble me. Steve said, “I wouldn’t do that. Scripture says to humble yourself. You don’t want God to have to do it.” Along that vein, a few years ago, I embarked on a self-imposed, humbling journey in self-discovery in which I did interviews with five different people, asking questions that elicited mostly-negative responses about ways I could improve my impact on others.
For a lot of my single years, I was hopelessly awkward. No doubt, there were still attractive things about my personality (or at least my mom says there were), but overall, I was kind of weird.
I don’t flip people off in traffic, but this week, there was an ugly part of me that felt like doing it. I was in rush hour traffic and was trying to get across downtown D.C. to get a haircut. It is difficult to find street parking at that hour, but lo and behold, right when I arrived, a woman got in her car to leave — and then she took her time.
At some point in my mid-thirties, it started happening to young couples around me. Their relationships began fracturing and falling apart, and it wasn’t always the people you would expect. These were good folks with good intentions who said every word of their marital vows with conviction. But various circumstances and choices began pressing upon them, and eventually, I saw them go through extreme stress, separation, and sometimes, divorce.