I was with my two younger daughters in a restaurant. At the time in their mid twenties, they were standing next to me waiting for a table. A woman came up to me and asked if I was Ed McShane. I said I was. She shook my hand and said, "Thank you for saving my son's life."
She said we'd only met once, that her husband transported the teenager to my office. She said after his sessions with me, he has never had suicidal thoughts since our visits, is getting his Master's Degree, and is leading a happy life.
I looked at my daughters and smiled. My youngest daughter, a sarcastic and brilliant child, looked back at me and quietly said, "That's OK, Dad. We know you're full of shit." She saw the difference of the private Dad vs. the public Dad. She knew.
The woman I'm married to has said something similar. She reads my writing and said they are "just words" since I've had periodic difficulty living up to the aspirations in my writing. I have had bouts of frustrated, impatient, and sullen behavior that, thankfully, isn't exactly a daily pattern. But it's frequent enough that even one of the aforementioned can cancel my "coach for the heart" card for days.
It's easy for me to treat somebody nicely for one hour a time in my office. These essays come from my heart, but so does my flaws in character that appear too often for many to forgive me any more than they already have.
I always apologize immediately after I screw up, and I try diligently to correct my behavior. But for some people, you only get one chance, maybe two, and they'll pass on interacting with you anymore.
You don't want to follow that path. Be good, especially so, to the people in your closest circle of friendship and love.Try hard to make those you treat inside that place as nicely as those as you treat in the store, the parking lot, and in line at the bank. Steer away from only being one of those "special people, who care about strangers" without loving those who are around you first, and committing to treating the close ones as well as the ones you'll never see again.
It is admirable to treat strangers with kindness. But it is a mindful and consistent example of true love to treat those you love with immeasurable patience, forgiveness and gratitude.
It is here that love means the most.