are you now or have you ever...

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Danny Boy, Forget The Pipes And Hang Around

In honor of Daniel, our preacher friend who always contributes delightful and insightful comments to enhance our work, I offer the following reminiscence.

Back in 1992 and 1993, I was asked twice to spend the weekend in Manhattan to be part of a lecture program. The friend who invited me lived in cramped quarters, so he arranged for me to stay at the capacious home of a Jewish philanthropist named A. C. Nussbaum who, if I am not mistaken, has since sold that apartment and moved to Israel.

Interestingly enough, both times I was there, a year apart, he had the same house guest staying the next room over. This was a young man named Daniel, whom I had met about a decade earlier. Daniel is a friend of my first cousin, who introduced me to him circa 1982. Since then, I had often run into him and exchanged pleasantries.

In fact, one night in 1991 or so, I had encountered him in a restaurant in Brooklyn, at which time he told me that he had recently been divorced. I offered him some briefly mumbled sympathies. Being a divorcee myself, people expect me to empathize and draw comparisons to my own experience, but I am fairly adept at avoiding that unless cornered.

Back to 1992 and 1993, when I remeet Daniel at Nussbaum's. He more or less joined me in my schedule, walking me to various neighborhood places of interest and then attending my lectures. Additionally, we spent quite a bit of time conversing back at the Nussbaums' apartment.

What emerged was that he was still very much enamored of his ex-wife and simultaneously despairing over ever finding someone else. I spoke to him a great deal in an effort to encourage him and help to rebuild his confidence.

Some years passed and I was living in Cincinnati. One night in 1995 or so the phone rings and it's Daniel.

"You have no idea how hard I had to work to track down your phone number. But I felt that I had to call you to tell you the good news that I'm engaged to be married to a wonderful woman. I'm very happy and I wanted you to know that I feel that it is only because of what you told me that I had the strength to keep looking and keep hoping."

"Really? What did I tell you that you found so meaningful?"

He reminded me that I had shared with him the words of the Midrash, which says that there are three characters in Scriptures who saw their world built, then destroyed, and then rebuilt again. These are Noah, Job and Daniel. Noah lived in the antediluvian world, experienced the devastation of the Flood, and then rebuilt the world along with his children. Job succeeded in building up wealth and a family only to lose it all, yet he later managed to recreate both, even exceeding his prior attainments. Daniel lived as a young boy in the last days of the First Temple, saw it destroyed and was exiled in Babylon; as an older man, he was able to see the Second Temple standing.

"Since your name is Daniel," I told my friend, "perhaps this will be your fate."

Now he is happily married with at least one child by his current wife.


Daniel said...

Thanks for the great story, Jay. As a "Daniel" who has seen his world disolve over the last three months (albeit at my own hand as I left a wonderful life, stable church, and fruitful ministry to attend seminary) I found it much more encouraging than you ever could have intended.

And thanks also for the kind words in the other thread. I'll certainly be hanging around!

Hunter Baker said...

I've had the pleasure of meeting the Daniel of the comments section over lunch at Fazoli's in Waco. We met there because what's said at Fazoli's, stays at Fazoli's. Kidding aside, the preacher man is also a West Point man (right academy, Daniel?) with a physics degree. Not your average pulpiteer!

Daniel said...

Lunch at Fazoli's was an offer I couldn't refuse. (Or is that an "off-ah?")

I've learned, much to my dismay, that there's really no humble or self-depricating way to tell people that you went to West Point. Unfortunately, people usually follow up by asking me what I majored in, and having to answer "theoretical physics" doesn't help matters even a little bit.

So yeah, that's me. I really do aim for a high level of humility though.