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Cover Story


Barry



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I'm low-tolerant. Well, at least when it comes to some things. OK . . . when it comes to some people. 

There are two basic types of people that make me want to gnash my teeth and pull out my hair. The first type includes people who drone on and on when they could have said what they needed to in like three seconds. The second type consists of those bigwigs of inside information (at least in their own minds). These are the people who know it all, always lecturing and advice-giving, claiming honor and demanding obedience. 

They’re the masters of information. 

And they love me. Just love me. Like I’m begging for someone to tell me how to live in the world. Thanks, but my dad pretty much takes more than care of that. 

But for some reason these crafty brainiacs are inescapable for me. They’re bosses and classmates, teachers, neighbors, and great-uncles—especially great-uncles. 

They’re people like Barry. 

Barry the brilliant. Barry the bossy. Barry the big fat pain in my neck. 

You know him. We’ve all met him at some time or another. He’s everywhere. 

Lurking. Snooping. Storytelling. Forever holding a position requiring wisdom and thoughtfulness. He directs and conducts, informs, demands, and gives advice. All kinds of advice. 

And he gives it frequently. Loudly. Always. He loves to enlighten. Ooohhh sooo insightful. 

He knows everything about everything. He’s seen every situation, been to every restaurant, driven every car, flown into every airport. He has the skinny on every and all shortcuts, freeways, ferries, and information highways. He even has the discerning answers to every complex world issue. 

And he drives me absolutely nuts-o! Cuckoo. Just the thought of him makes me want to rebel. 

OK, I know that I have issues. I should just accept and love, tolerate and consider, but I can’t. I really can’t. These advice-giving ding-dongs push me to the edge of loonyville. 

And they’re always there. No matter what class I’m in, state I’m traveling to, hobby I’m practicing, joke I’m telling, there’s always someone from “the advice-giving group” to dominate. To point out any mistake or hesitation. 

And today was no exception. 

Unwelcome encounter 

I was traveling from California for a big Mother’s Day surprise for my mmmm . . . yes, that’s right, mother. It was going to be the gift of the century: Golden child returns to the Midwest for surprise visit. Woo-hoo! 

I was pumped. Excited. Giddy. 

And almost home. After a three-hour drive, two missed planes, and lost luggage, all that stood in my way was a bus ride to the promised land and my mama. 

The end of my journey was in sight. I’d almost made it without a run-in with the invasive known-it-all. 

And then there he was. 

Barry. 

I spotted him a block away. Strutting around. Standing tall. Telling everyone the rules—that the bus would be there at 2:13, and that Dallas, an old “ham radio buddy,” would be driving. 

Uh, yeah. Pretty neat. See you much later, I thought the moment I laid eyes on him. 

No, Barry didn’t work there. He just knew how it was. How it all was. 

Already I was annoyed. If this guy even tries to tell me how to “ride the bus,” where I should sit, what I should say to Dallas when he takes my ticket, I’ll be forced to be rude and petty. I haven’t got time for the pain. 

Then I saw him coming. Just waiting for me to glance up for a microsecond. Just enough time for him to catch my eye and start talking. Telling. Recommending. 

He approached like a lithe jungle cat ready to pounce. Ready to give “great” advice on who knows what—probably on how to hold my suitcase “the correct way” or which soda machine was a whole nickel cheaper. 

Get lost, wacko! I screamed silently. 

But he inched closer. Closer. Holding his breath until he could unload all his airport transport knowledge on poor, no-escape-route, caught-between-the-moon-and-New-York-City me. 

I looked bored, put on my headphones, and pumped up the jam. Do not approach. 

Please, peasant man, I begged silently, I am V. sophisticated. Sooo used to the “Cali” life, chatting on my cell phone, and becoming very society. I don’t have the will, the desire, nor the patience to listen to your flitty jabber on the intricacies of the shuttle bus. 

Munching my cheese puffs, I broke it down to my favorite album and scanned the room for any single hotties needing a little bus depot flirtation with a coy enchantress . . . um, yes, the coy enchantress would be me. 

But nothing. 

All I saw was Mr. Barry dude wandering from bench to bench, trying to strike up a conversation with someone. With anyone. 

Then all of a sudden I saw this man for who he was. 

A dork. A grown-up misfit craving acceptance. Honor. Belonging. A man, though established and aged, still unsure. Still begging to be liked and respected, known and welcomed. Still needing acknowledgment for his bit of crucial wisdom—even if it was just about public transportation. 

He wanted to be the Grand Poobah of something. 

And who can blame him? Don’t we all want to be great and acknowledged, well thought of, accepted, and revered? 

As I looked at this man with way-thick glasses and chest-high pants, I thought of all the people it’s so easy to overlook. All the souls I pass so easily, so carelessly, who crave conversation. Who plead for patience. Who long for laughter and love. 

And I wondered how many times I hadn’t been kind enough to suspend my intense infatuation with myself long enough to focus on another—even when we have nothing in common. And especially when they’re annoying. 

Because Jesus doesn’t say we have to like one another. Only love one another. 

So I did. 

Tuned in 

I took off the earphones, offered Barry a MoonPie from my “traveling goodies” stash, and asked him about the giant jar of “pickled quail eggs” he carried (which, believe me, is an entirely different saga all in itself). 

I nodded eagerly as I learned all about the history of the vitamin business, had insatiable interest in the rules and complete schedule listing of the Chicago Bus Company, and yes, even got the lowdown on that crazy ham radio system. 

I wish I could say that Barry turned out to be a millionaire and gave me a bunch of cash as a reward for my kindness and mercy, or that he had some famous grandson that I ended up marrying. 

But aside from all the neat-o vitamin and bus facts, I didn’t get much except this really great feeling because I’d loved another. Because I’d loved someone who would never move into my “like” category. Someone I didn’t have one eensy thing in common with. But someone who, nonetheless, was the same as me . . . a floundering child of God. 

And that was more than enough. 

 

This story originally appeared in the May 27, 2000, issue of Insight. At that time Stephanie Gulke Wasemiller was a graduate student in marriage and family therapy at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. She went on the first two Insight Ultimate Workout mission trips and later served as a student missionary. She now lives in Rockford, Illinois, with her husband and 6-year-old son, where she writes for publications and Web sites and speaks at recovery facilities. She’s also writing a book on addiction. 

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