Writing a weekly column has its challenges, just in case you were wondering. Especially when you’ve been doing it for seven years. Everything worth writing about has pretty much been written about.
I asked some reliable helpers—my students—for advice about a writing topic. After all, they write in my class every day. Surely they’d have some fresh ideas for me. Here are a few ideas they came up with, that I could write about:
My students. (Done that.)
My goofy family. (Done.)
My daughter. (Done.)
My son. (Done.)
My dog. (Done.)
My cat. (Don’t have one.)
My first date. (Maybe . . .)
My job. (Done.)
Fish. (Done that too.)
Gummy Bears (No, but marshmallows are pretty close.)
Cleaning my house. (Done.)
Getting lost. (Done.)
Breaking up with a boyfriend. (Too personal.)
So, first date it is. His name was Kelly, and he asked me to escort him to the church youth banquet. He didn’t drive, so his mom drove us. I didn’t really “like” Kelly, and I only agreed to go with him because it was considered cool to have a date. Any date was better than going stag. I was only in the seventh grade, so I didn’t have the suave social skills I’ve now acquired. I was wretched.
He brought me a lovely corsage. We took awkward pictures. When he held open the back car door so we could sit together, I stepped around him and climbed in the front seat next to his mother. When we got to the banquet, I barely spoke two words to him. I spent the evening chatting with my girlfriends.
His mother drove us home, and he walked me to the door and told me what a nice time he had. I mumbled a thank you and left him standing on my porch.
I am deeply ashamed. Looking back, I wish I’d been nicer to Kelly. He was a good friend. But at the time, I was so worried about what people would think, so concerned that my friends might link us together as a couple that I behaved in a way I now regret. Today, I’m sure none of my friends remember that night or who I went with or whether or not Kelly and I were an item. But I’ll bet Kelly remembers.
Sometimes, it’s easy to be more concerned about what people think than about what’s right. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve spent much of my adult life catering to other’s views of me. I’ve concealed truths and inflated half-truths, all so people would think I have the fairy-tale life I wish I had. All so people would be impressed with me and my family.
Oh, I rarely realize I’m doing it until after the fact. But the older I get, the more I strive for a more authentic life. I want to do the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing, even if others think less of me because of it. After all, chances are, none of you will care much about my pretend-perfect circumstances in a few years. But hopefully, you’ll remember that I always tried to do the right thing. Even if you don’t, I’ll remember.
So Kelly, if you’re out there, I was a jerk. I’m so sorry. I hope you’ve had a happy life. And for what it’s worth, thank you for being a good friend, even when I wasn’t.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin,” James 4:17.