As we approach the anniversary of my blog, I thought you, my faithful readers, had earned a story about someone other than me. Nothing especially interesting has happened to me this week, so thankfully someone told me a story that I felt worth repeating. The story made me think about the negative motives we sometimes ascribe to people, and how often we’re just plain wrong. All names are changed to protect privacy.
Esther and Hannah used to be good friends back in high school, but they moved in different circles as adults. In recent years, they’d happened upon each other in the community on occasion, and each time Hannah suggested they get together. After many such meetings, Esther invited Hannah for dinner. She also extended the invitation to Hannah’s best friend, Rachel, whom Esther also knew.
Since Esther does not entertain much, she planned a twofer, i.e., she invited friends for dinner two nights in a row, intending to serve the same meal. (A great idea, I thought, but not the point of the story.) Hannah and Rachel were invited for the second night. As Esther was preparing her first dinner, Rachel called to tell her that Hannah was feeling unwell and would have to cancel. Although Esther extended the invitation to Rachel on her own, Rachel declined, suggesting they rebook when all three could make it.
Suffice it to say that Esther was pissed. (Those were her words; I would never use such vile language.) She had prepared a lot of chicken, and now she had no one to feed it to. She resentfully ate the excess chicken all week so it wouldn’t go to waste. And then, four days after the cancelled invitation, Esther learned that Hannah had died in her sleep. And, in addition to feeling sad, Esther felt a bit guilty. As she said: “I guess Hannah really was sick. And I guess she cancelled for a reason.” Funny, Esther’s resentment vanished.
Despite what you might think, I’m not telling you this story because the last time we were invited for dinner, I cancelled at late notice because I was feeling unwell. So long as I am up and walking, any unreliability is inexcusable, unless I happen to be in hospital. Then I trust you would give me a pass. Or at least I hope you would.
No, I’m telling you this story because it made me think of the many times people have been unreliable with me, and I, like Esther, have been resentful. Because my energy is limited, maybe I had planned my day or even my week around the invitation. And I’ll admit with shame that I often felt similarly when my clients cancelled at late notice or did not arrive at all. Many times, I failed to consider that maybe there was a valid explanation.
So the next time someone bails on a plan with you at the last minute, consider what happened to Esther. Also, you also might want to refuse any invitations from Esther, since her dinner invitations may be lethal. At least Esther can rest assured it wasn’t her chicken.