About 10 years ago, I attended a winter holiday luncheon where I knew most of the people, though none very well. I overheard a woman – an acquaintance whose name I still remember – invite another woman to a New Year’s Eve party to which I had not been invited. A wave of hurt came over me at that moment, but I never did tell anyone I had heard. Although I can’t remember too many other details of that luncheon, I will never forget the feeling of being excluded that accompanied me on the drive home.

Fast forward 10 years to a similar scenario. I was never one to be sure that lightning can strike twice, but now I’m sure that it can. A few days ago, I attended a brunch where I knew a few people slightly but no one at my table. From their conversation, I could tell that several folks seated around me were fairly well-acquainted with each other. I wasn’t expecting anyone to take particular note of me as the newcomer; it is much easier for most folks to talk about themselves than exert that extra energy to get to know a stranger.

No big deal. People are eternally fascinating to me, and I am eager to learn about them. One of my table mates, an artist whose work I had admired in a particular gallery, shared with me the challenges of making a living in her field. A senior citizen amazed me with a story of moving to Tucson from a retirement community in California of l7,000 people! Interesting stuff – all of it.

Absorbed as I was in these stories, I was caught off guard by what happened next. A woman sitting across from me with whom I had exchanged some pleasantries asked in a distinctly audible voice to the guest seated next to her, “So, would you like to come to my house for seder the second night of Passover?”

Whether or not I had plans for the second night of Passover (and just for the record, I didn’t) was not as significant as hearing that invitation expressed to another in my presence. If there is a déjà vu for feelings, this was it: exactly the same emotion I had experienced 10 years ago upon knowing that I was not invited to the New Year’s Eve party. The first time it happened, I sucked it up. This time, I decided to handle things differently.

With a pleasant expression on my face I inquired of the first woman, “Am I invited too?” Talk about getting caught with your hand in a tin of kosher-for-Passover macaroons! Trying to cover her faux pas, she answered, “Yes, would you like to come? It’s the second seder.” When I told her no thanks, I was just kidding, she could have taken the high road and said, “I’m not,” but she didn’t. “Oh, OK,” was her relieved reply.

I don’t think most folks have the desire to hurt one another. But unintentional pain inflicted can hurt just as badly. ..

They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat! As we graciously invite others to join us at our holiday tables, it’s a good idea to remember a little addendum to the old saying about little pitchers having big ears. Big pitchers do, as well.

Barbara Russek, a former French teacher, is a freelance writer. She welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net.

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