Bear with me. This is a long story, but I hope an interesting one.
A few weeks ago I had to make an announcement at church about the book club I’m leading. We were reading THREE CUPS OF TEA, which we all liked. After the service my minister told me that one of the elderly gentlemen in church wanted to talk to me about the book. Praise the Lord, I thought. Just what I need. However, in my continuing efforts to lead a decent life, I called up this gentleman, who proposed that I stop by his office on Thursday morning. Even better, I thought.
He had a small office on Main Street of my town. He met me at the door, smiling, charming, very old. He had a tall, elegant, beautiful secretary. She offered me tea. I noticed that on his walls were photographs of him with every prominent person I could think of from the last thirty years, among them presidents, astronauts and financial leaders. It turned out this gentleman had lived a fascinating life. He’d been a player in some of the news stories I’d worked on when I was a reporter at FORTUNE Magazine. I had a great time, was pleased that I met him. Then he told me he’d written a book. Would I like to read it?
You have to understand I am fanatical about preserving writing time. I don’t talk on the phone during the day, etc. etc. But I figured I’d gone this far. I might just as well go the next step and so I took his manuscript. I put it on my kitchen table and ignored it for the next week. But then, one afternoon, I picked it up and wound up reading the whole thing in one gulp. It was great.
This next part is where I hope this story gets interesting. I knew he’d want to know what I thought of the book. I wanted to give it back him, but when I stopped by his office a few days later it was closed. I couldn’t just leave the manuscript on the front stoop. Our town is safe but this was his life’s work and I didn’t want a dog to come along and pee on it. I could have given it to him at church, but I didn’t want him to have to schlep it around. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll mail it to him. That way there will be no confusion.
So I went to the post office. I should say that I spend more time in the post office than anyone in America. I’m always mailing out letters or bookmarks or presents or care packages. So I’ve come to know the postal worker quite well, plus, her son wrestles on the same team as my son. I believe she’s from Kenya. We always settle in for a chat when we see each other. When I handed over my package she looked at the address and said, “Main Street?”
I said, “I know. It’s ridiculous. But…” and I started to explain the situation.
She cut me off and said, “But I’ll just deliver this myself. I meet with them every afternoon for tea.” It turned out she and this gentleman and his secretary were good friends.
Why does this all matter to me?
Because I love the fact that these three people, seemingly so different, are friends. Because in learning about the connection, it changed the way I saw each of them. It also made me realize how much I love finding connections in my writing—two characters who seem unalike but share something in common. There’s something combustible about those moments of discovery—there’s energy in it. There’s also surprise, communion, friendship. All good things.
So here is my holiday greeting to all: May you have many connections!