Last fall I got lost in the woods and swamps near where we live. With light fading, and the realization that my children would soon arrive home to an empty house, I left the bike I had been stubbornly carrying through the swamps beside a tree. I knew I would never see it again. I needed to get home and not much else mattered.
I do not have an innate sense of direction and rarely know which way is north. I could see the sun setting in the west, but as I had no idea where I was, it didn’t tell me which way to go. All I could be sure about was that by going in one direction (as opposed to circles) I would eventually hit a road. Once on a road, I would know finally know the way home.
Recently, I found myself rather irritated by another human being and in a position where my opinion about this human was being sought. (Due to my lack of patience and an unfortunate deficit of inborn humility, I am ashamed to say that this feeling of personal disdain for other people is something that have a good deal of experience with.) Human mentioned above had not been terribly thoughtful or pleasant in their interactions with me. Better words to describe their approach to me would be along the lines of dismissive, condescending, and largely oblivious to me as a fellow traveller on the highway of life.
I was justified, and therefore longed to spell out in clipped. King’s. Best. English. my. insights. about. the. nasty. human. Unfortunately, I had to admit to myself that the human seemed hurting, and that the hurt might be driving the harshness of the public persona. This has been me also, in other places. I grudgingly wondered if a small amount of mercy were in order. Secondly, and a far from noble reality, I worried that if the person asking my opinion didn’t share my views, that my negative reactions might be reflected back at me, rather than the human who really DESERVED them. I went with soft truthful but gentle. No accusations attached.
I got a note back thanking me and saying that my response had been charitable. It caught me off guard. Even if I got there for not all the right reasons, was it true? I felt like I was sitting with that word charitable floating in the air in front of me. I couldn’t stop looking. I still can’t.
I have begun to wonder what it would be like if I were to become someone who was charitable. If being well defended from the enemies of people who misunderstand me, is actually a missed opportunity to be the kind of person I would very much like to be.
Charitable isn’t the road I thought I was looking for. But there’s a clear path through the trees. No bells. No whistles. No gold stars on a chart. Just a way home, if I’ll take it.