question-markWe live in a world full of acronyms, clever little ditty’s intended to entice us by their singular bold letters that mean something and we need to guess what it is.  Just like meeting someone for the first time and our radar is in full motion.  I see D.A.R.E. on license plates every day and there’s M.A.D.D. which expresses both the name and the sentiment.  A.A.R.P. keeps asking me to join but once they became politically conservative the circular file found their materials. (Since I’m aging I can still think for myself!) D.O.A. we all know from TV and R.S.V.P. is for weddings but don’t ask anyone to spell it out.  (We’re still not sure about the French since they were the smart ones who stayed out of Iraq.)  Healthcare has A.D.L. which means you are no longer able to perform simple tasks when left alone.

I bored you with the first paragraph to introduce a new one and it even makes a pronounceable word which is helpful for its repetition.  It’s “Benefit Of A Doubt.”  We often surprise ourselves by the behavior of someone but is the surprise not in the person but in our judgment?  We seemed to have this person weighed and measured and, viola (another French word), we are surprised.  Surprise should actually be replaced with our narrowed definition of that person, “I thought that she was…” “He seemed to me to be…”  So there’s no surprise but only more insight that our sight failed to capture the first or second time.

It’s milliseconds in our appraisal of someone.  The way the hands shook, the lost eye contact, the low-cut dress, the wrinkled shirt or loose tie are all surveyed, stored and retrieved for the next time we meet.  It’s such a handy tool for us to keep people in this camp or that category.  Our simple minds become the proverbial filing cabinet which flips to our remembrance of someone and their now fixed personality.

That lazy single mother with two small kids turns out to have a second job with helpful neighbors to watch her toddlers.  That mean-spirited grouch from accounting suddenly dies and leaves a sizable gift to the charity that helped his son before his son died.  That little brat who stuttered and blinked too much in grade school became a priest (I couldn’t resist).

“Just when I had you figured out,” is the familiar line before the surprise is revealed when it was no surprise at all.  Whatever it was, it was there all the time.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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