Sunday, November 29, 2015


We were standing in the elevator lobby at our hotel, talking with some new friends, when a man came crashing into me and careened off toward the dining room. My first thought was that the guy must have been blind, and how thoughtless we were to be standing so close to the elevator doors, but as I watched him walk with no apparent remorse toward the dining room I decided he was simply rude.

I noticed him later in the dining room. As he looked at me, I felt (or imagined I felt) his hatred and contempt. I looked again to be sure. Yep. He hates my guts and I don’t even know why. I asked Alla if she recognized him, if perhaps she had some idea how I might have offended him. She thought I was talking about some other guy, and said that she had tussled with him over seats at the welcome party.

I wanted to make peace, so I went to find him in the lobby after breakfast. I introduced myself to him in Spanish, and asked if he spoke English. He stiffened. “That’s where I’m from. I’m American.” I don’t think he was amused that I started out in Spanish, so now I felt two steps behind.

I pressed ahead with a little small talk, asking him what city he’s from and telling him that I’m from Belarus. He didn’t seem terribly interested, so I went directly to the point, saying “If I’ve offended you in any way, I want to apologize.”

“You scowled at me,” he replied.

I tried to remember when that might have been. Over breakfast, perhaps? Did he even look back at me at the elevator? Or had it started even before that? I replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t remember what was in my thought when I looked at you, but I harbor no ill will. I’m sorry I gave you that impression.”

He softened, accepting my apology. We talked some more. He wanted me to know a little about him. He’s an interesting guy, and his life is very different from mine. I can’t necessarily identify with him, but I enjoyed hearing his story and let him see that on my face and by my questions. We parted peacefully, and he made a point of coming by our table at lunch time to greet me. I’ve made a new friend.

I used to know another guy who routinely made the same mistake I did. He’d go down and sit in one of the front rows at church and then turn around to look intently at the congregation before the service started. I knew him to be a peaceful fellow, but the expression on his face often looked to me like he didn’t like the people he was looking at. I didn’t know him well enough to tell him, but it illustrates the importance of attending to our thought and having enough love in our hearts that it shows on our faces.

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