Nice to Meet You

A long time ago when I was a freshman in high school, I had a very good friend who lived in Whittier, California, the town in which I grew up.  Having moved to El Cajon only recently and just beginning high school at Granite Hills, where I knew virtually no one, I clung to my friends in Whittier as long as I could.

During my transition from missing everyone desperately and trying to make new friends, I corresponded via mail to a couple of my closest friends.  One of them was a girl I'll call Debbie.  We wrote frequently.  Actual letters in paper envelopes with US postage stamps affixed to the upper right hand corner.

In the midst of some teenage crisis or other, I wrote to Debbie and poured my heart out onto the lovely stationery, that thin paper with a deckled edge, daisies running up the side.  (It was the 60s!)  My handwriting was not good, but my choice of paper and peacock blue ink from a fountain pen always made me proud of what I handed to the mailman.

I did not hear from her, and since this was before we just picked up the phone and dialed long distance like we do today, I waited.  Not patiently.  Then after a couple of weeks, I decided I would give her a little piece of my  mind.  I would never have made her wait so long to hear from me, especially if I thought she really needed my help and understanding.  My teenage wisdom...

I wrote a letter that was mean and not well thought out.  Mean words on beautiful paper with daisies running up the side.   I told her I couldn't believe that she didn't think more of our friendship than this.  And on and on and on I went.  I think my mother wisely asked me if I was sure I wanted to send that letter, but I was hurt and wanted to let my friend know it.  So into its envelope and out it went, a letter I should not have been proud to hand to the mailman.

About three weeks later, I got a letter from her with an apology.  Her mother had been gravely ill and she had not been able to write.  She apologized for being "thoughtless." Needless to say, the apology should have been mine and of course I never heard from her again.  In my haste to make a point, in a hurry to underscore my own petty, bitty slice of woe and hurt feelings, I killed our friendship.  

~~~

I mention this because the other day I met Bill Jaynes who owns All Things Bright and British.  He was cleaning off a parking meter on Palm Avenue on that cleanup day in La Mesa.  That rainy cleanup day, which I did not participate in, I'm ashamed to say.  I had never met Bill before, although I have read his many postings on the La Mesa Patch as well as on La Mesa Today. Occasionally I had thought he seemed kind of like a contrary guy, but I had formed my entire opinion of him based on what I read.  He was nothing like I had pictured him in my mind, and he could not have been more gracious.  We did the Howie Mandel fist bump, as his hands were gloved and pretty filthy, again as he was working and I was just going for coffee.  

How interesting, I mused, that the Bill Jaynes thought I "knew" online didn't fit this warm, outgoing friendly guy.  

I'm not saying that everyone has to be best friends forever with every single person they know.  But what I concluded in that moment was that, like my ruinous letter to my friend Debbie, statements based on speculation and communication that isn't face to face can be very destructive. If we neglect taking the time to realize there are real people with feelings reading the emails or posts we send and real people writing the posts we read, we potentially risk losing an amazing richness of friendships and community in our little La Mesa Village.  Meeting in person is so much better than over the internet!

Nice to meet you, Bill Jaynes!  I'll drop in and buy some Cadbury goodies soon.

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Tags: All Things Bright & British, Bill Jaynes, Chris Shea, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news

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Comment by Bill Jaynes on February 22, 2012 at 7:37am

Thank you for your kind words, Ms. Shea.

You're right that this is a small town and we all have to live together in the Village. You've reminded me to remember, when I write, of these lines by Robert Burns:


O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!

I enjoyed speaking with you at the cleanup the other day. Believe me, I'd much rather be selling  Cadbury chocolates than playing PBID contrarian! We've kept our heads down on our little corner for a quarter century until PBID came a' calling, and the sooner I can get back to that the better.

Bill Jaynes

All Things Bright and British

619 464 2298

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