Some months ago, I was sitting on a bench atop Mt. Tabor, reading a book. A young man, about 20 years old, approached me. He was holding a frisbee.
“Excuse me, sir,” he mumbled, glancing down, a little embarrassed it seemed. “Would you be willing to throw a frisbee with me for just a few minutes?”
“Sure!” I said. I love throwing a frisbee and hadn’t done it in years.
As we tossed it back and forth, he asked me a few generic questions: Where did I live? Did I come up the mountain often? etc. I asked him similar stuff.
Then, rather abruptly I thought, he called an end to our game of catch.
And he explained why he’d asked me to play in the first place.
He was taking a course in overcoming fear of rejection. And his assignment was to deliberately place himself in situations where he would experience rejection, so that he could force himself to deal with it (or something like that – desensitize himself to it).
“So actually, when I asked you to throw a frisbee with me, you were supposed to say no,” he concluded. “But that’s okay.”
Back in Mt. Tabor Park last week, I sat on a bench near one of the reservoirs, but there was a little jazz band playing nearby with an amplifier – they were a trio, with keyboards, guitar, and drums – and I didn’t care for their noodling, meandering sound (I don’t really “get” most jazz), and it distracted me from my book, so I got up and walked on.
I found I could still hear that band pretty loudly all the way on the other side of the reservoir. I continued on my circuit through the park, walking a considerable distance away, but there was no entirely escaping the sound.
As I ascended a big hill to the mountain summit – still hearing that stupid little band – I was starting to feel annoyed. I thought: It’s one thing to play a little live music outdoors, but did they have to foist their aimless music on all park visitors? I kinda wished I’d said something to them about turning the volume down.
So I was walking up the hill having these thoughts, and there was a dude with a dog on a leash walking down the hill, towards me. He looked to be about 35 or 40 years old, trim, athletic, with really big sideburns, wearing shorts though it was a brisk day. At first glance I thought he had ear pods in his ears; his expression looked kind of checked out to me, absorbed in his head, not present to his physical surroundings.
But I felt a need to express myself so I said to him, “Excuse me. Can I get your opinion about something?”
I wasn’t even sure he’d be able to hear me because, like I said, I suspected he was listening to something plugged into his ears.
But he said, “Okay.”
I said, “You hear that band? Do you think it would have been rude of me to have asked them to play a little softer so that the whole park wouldn’t have to hear them?”
He replied, with alacrity, “I think it’s okay for them to want to make music, and it’s also okay for you to speak your truth. I don’t think there would have been anything wrong with that.”
I said, “Would you agree that it’s inconsiderate, that their sound is pervading the entire park?”
He said pleasantly, “Maybe they’re your teachers today, teaching you about patience.”
“Good words,” I acknowledged.
His dog was straining on the leash to greet me.
“Can I say hello to your dog?” I asked. “I love it when dogs jump on me.”
“Sure,” he said.
He walked a little closer so that his dog could reach me, and I knelt down and let the dog jump on me and lick my face a little.
“A puppy?” I asked.
“Uh-huh. A year old.”
“I love how indiscriminate dogs are,” I said.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “Unconditional love.”
I said, “If only we humans could learn to give that.”
He said, “Well, maybe you could start with those musicians down there.”