Who is the most interesting person you met this year? If someone asked you this question, what would you say? I was asked to write about the most interesting person I met this year and after thinking for a few minutes I could think of no one. This can either mean that I lead a very boring life and haven’t met anyone interesting this year (it’s a possibility), or that I have a rather high standard of what I call ‘interesting’ (I do), or that most people who came to mind are people I already know for a few years or longer (yes, I could easily write about someone I know longer, many of my friends are fascinating people). Everyone has a story, at least I believe they do, and since I believe this I find it quite intriguing that it is proving a bit of a challenge to pick someone new ‘with a story’ from this year.
When you know someone for a year or two or a few, what makes them unique can surface, it takes time to ‘see’ people in their depth and recognise pearls they picked up through life. I would almost presume that noticing someone’s uniqueness first time you meet them would mean they are in some way eccentric and visibly exceptional, but I am sure this does not have to be the case. This whole reflection is giving me much thought as to what I consider ‘interesting’ and is making me decide to be more mindful when I meet (new) people.
I do remember a few interesting encounters, but they were rather brief; a woman at the bus stop with whom I had an inspiring conversation, an angry man who gave me a lift, an old man who showed me kindness in Church (short but rather touching story), a cute baby who thought I was rather interesting, the second humblest Bishop I met in my life (this one was African, a woman, and Anglican, the first one was from Papua New Guinea, a man, and Catholic; both were black). I met a wonderful character in a book (if that counts for meetings!). However, I will tell you about another brief encounter I had in Dublin. Recently I was in a Church waiting to go for confession. The queue wasn’t long, but there were at least five people ahead of me, waiting. After a few minutes another man came and sat next to me, joining the queue. He could have been my grandfather, had I been born in Ireland, and had my grandfather been a church-goer. Ok, the only resemblance to my grandfather was his apparent kindness, humour and his age. He leaned towards me and said below the voice: “We’ll get there eventually”. “It won’t take that long”, I responded. Silence covered the spaces between people again. Another few moments after and now closer to the door that leads to confession I pondered, “He probably didn’t mean that literally. He probably meant, eventually we won’t need to be coming here, or we’ll improve. Or something like that. Did I give him hope by saying, It won’t take much longer or did I confuse him?” There was something comforting in the recognition of our common humanity, the ‘we are in this together’ kind of thing. An encouragement? Was he saying don’t be hard on yourself, but why would he think that I was? Or maybe he was hard on himself. I could have just asked, say, “you didn’t mean that literally, did you?”, but instead I just pondered. In silence. “We’ll get there eventually”. Maybe that’s what humility looks like. The voice of that man sounded as if it had texture of a humble soul.
It was my turn, I went into the confession. When I finished, I went out and knelt to say my prayers. I do not recall seeing this man again. Behind the door of confessional is one of the most intimate moments that God witnesses on this earth, regarding our souls. Honesty, unmasked. Bare truth of our life being met with bare truth of God’s mercy and love. An exchange happens, a new beginning, fresh start, almost like washing your soul totally white. Did this gentleman feel this? A heavy load, invisible bag of life’s wounds, mistakes, sins, left behind that door, only to come out changed a little bit, once more. This man’s voice of wisdom combined with the voice of my youth probably gives the whole truth.
So in the end it turns out I have had interesting encounters lately, but I think I have not met the most interesting person this year. Not yet. That is still to come. Will I write about it? Don’t bet on it, but I will surely keep an eye and be on the alert. Expect the unexpected, they say. I will, I do.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 13th April 2015)
Photo by © Iva Beranek