‘Take it personally’

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I have spent a good deal of time lately helping one of Marti’s friends care for her bedridden husband. When he was active, he was pretty hard-nosed, very opinionated and a man of a few words, but those words were loud and boisterous, and sometimes offensive. Like many people with a hard outer shell, there is a soft spot inside known mostly to his wife, and I see it on occasion.

Since a fall and an operation gone wrong about a year ago, he’s been on his back with little movement and not much speech beyond “Yep,” and “Nope.” All his life he’s loved books and their house is full of them. His wife reads to him from the morning paper when he’ll let her. He used to like audio books, but now prefers silence. That’s why I was surprised when I offered to read to him and he didn’t say no.

“I don’t think I told you that I’m an author and have a few books published,” I said a few days ago. “Three of them are novels. Would you like me to read one to you and see what you think?”

“Yep,” was his unexpected response, to which I had to add, “If you don’t like it, just let me know. I won’t take it personally.” That’s when this man of a few words surprised me with the following three: “Take it personally.”

Ouch. That was a direct, almost rude response in keeping with his character and definitely to be taken seriously. With those three words, he said a mouthful.

First, he said, Mean what you say. Don’t just say stuff to be nice or to fill up the silence with something you don’t mean.

Second, he said, Speak the truth. You do care what I think, and if you don’t, don’t waste my time asking for it. If you don’t want my opinion, don’t ask for it.

And lastly, It’s your book; you wrote it; you should take it personally. If I don’t like it, you should find out why. It’s your life. Don’t be disconnected to yourself. Take everything personally, or don’t take it at all.

A lot learned from one comment. It’s called speaking the truth. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. I think we could all take away something from that.

By the way, I’m into chapter six of Saint Ben, and so far, he likes it. It’s hard to tell whether he’s awake or asleep because his eyes are closed most of the time, so I keep asking, “Are you with me?”

“Yep,” he says.

“Do you want me to keep going?”

“Yep.”

So far so good.

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7 Responses to ‘Take it personally’

  1. David Morgereth says:

    John – When I think of you reading Saint Ben to this man, I can’t help but think of Peter Falk reading to Fred Savage in “The Princess Bride”. Ah, the power of a good story! Having also read Saint Ben to my kids (many years ago), I can heartily endorse it as a good story. I pray he’ll be impacted by it, whether he likes it or not.

  2. Mark S. says:

    I too pray he’ll be impacted by your reading.

  3. Mike Myers says:

    “saint Ben”, is one of my wife’s favorite books! Thanks John!

  4. Peter Leenheer says:

    Isn’t it interesting that his one statement, “Take it personally” had such a deep meaning for you John. As a result you were able to give us a Catch that made us think of how we take things. It did me! Much of my life I took offense at way too many things and was angry many times as a result.

    Reading to this man is a trial to see how you react if he does make a comment about what you have read to him. Don’t sit on egg shells but don’t be surprised at some verbal roundhouse coming your way. I appreciate how you put your vulnerability on the line to give a rather unpleasant individual, pleasure in what he liked to do the most.
    I will pray for you as much as for him that God will make this a wonderful moment in time for both of you.

  5. jwfisch says:

    Beautiful. Thank you, Peter.

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