We all have those memories that we wish we could forget. Those instances when we performed in a less than stellar manner. Ah, yes, those embarrassing moments.
More than 40 years ago I behaved abysmally. In my defence I was young and stupid. I use that word intentionally. It’s more than 40 years later and I’m quite sure the parties involved are no longer alive but I am embarrassed at my behaviour.
Why am I sharing this now? Well I had an epiphany. It only took four decades to figure it out! Have I mentioned that I tend to be a little slow? Let me tell you what happened.
I was in my late teens and while I had an aspect to my character that was quite shy around people, I was a beast when it came to defending my family. At the time we shared our lives with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She was beautiful, friendly and not particularly bright. We loved her dearly. And she clearly loved everybody without exception. I used to take her for her last walk of the evening when it was dark. It was the wintertime so it was cold but not a lot of snow. The air was crisp and we were having a wonderful walk. She was off leash which was legal in those days but she was well trained enough to return when I called her.
We were walking in a residential area near a Catholic church. In the distance I could see what appeared to be a man in a dark coat and a small dog. Blue, my Chesapeake Bay, saw them too and raced to say hello. Her tail was wagging furiously. The individual in question picked up the little dog and tried to kick Blue. She was quick, the kick missed, I called her back and I got angry. At no time was Blue aggressive.
I proceeded to chastise the individual loudly and vehemently. Two more steps and I saw the white collar on his neck. He was a priest! Now one would assume that when presented with someone of the clergy, one would proceed with more decorum. Not a chance, I was angry!
But I did recognize the significance and changed my tactics.
“How dare you call yourself a man of God! I won’t share the same space with you if you feel you have the right to abuse one of God’s creatures . . .” Like I said, I was angry, a redhead and a family member was involved. You might call that a perfect storm.
Many years later I’m able to look back and understand his point of view. A strange animal, no matter how friendly it appears, can be frightening. I should have stopped and assured him of how gentle Blue was. I didn’t. I held my anger like a shield and refused to let him in. Sometime later when we returned from our walk along the same path, I saw him again. He was waiting for us. But I was still in the throws of that anger and I refused to speak to him. I’m sorry for that. I am sorry that I missed out on an opportunity to connect with another human being.
Sometimes those memories that we hold onto are there for a reason. Maybe we need to be humbled occasionally by our remembered mistakes so that we do not repeat them. I can never make up to that man for my inadequacies but I can hold onto his memory as a lesson. He was an important individual who has helped me to become the person I am even without knowing his name. And I hope I never forget the lesson he taught me.