I can’t recall now why I found George so very annoying. The word “pontificating” comes to mind; maybe he was a mansplainer, an interrupter or condescending. I’m quite certain he was also kind and insightful. Who knows, maybe the problem had more to do with my own impatience and lack of generosity. Or maybe I’m being too generous now, and he was legitimately a top-notch butthead. I really don’t remember.
In fact, I recall relatively few people from my grad school years at all because my focus rested almost entirely on this face…
But I do remember George–a veteran of non-active military service with a receding hairline and long grey pony tail–and not because he annoyed me. I remember him because he gave me soothing words that brighten some of my darkest most frightened hours, still, over a decade later (even two nights ago when I woke up from a nightmare about a mass shooting, and then yesterday Texas suffered another mass shooting, as opposed to the Colorado Walmart shooting the week prior, and the Las Vegas massacre the week or two before that).
George and I shared the same group for our group practice class in the autumn of 2005. We learned about group dynamics and how to effectively work with groups while functioning in a group all at the same time.
Our group had plenty to process in the tragic aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The images and stories coming out of the Lower Ninth Ward haunted me and left me despondent over the state of our world– most especially that I had chosen to bring a child into it. I sobbed my fear and guilt into the safety of our circle. Annoying George responded plainly, and not with a platitude. He offered the words sincerely and personally from his own experience as a man who had traveled the world, lived and lost plenty. He said to me:
Ann! Life is the single greatest adventure, and this is the only world we’ve got.
This is the only world we’ve got. We can and should strive to make it better. At the same time we can acknowledge that violence and catastrophe has coexisted and alternated with peace and prosperity since our human adventure began.
Annoying George, thank you for your wisdom. I’m so grateful.