For Katie


It has been a long time since the last time Katie and I spoke.  Few people ever leave a big impact on my life, but she is an exception.  For many reasons, Katie is somebody whom I greatly admire and respect.  For her indomitable spirit and a rare level of kindness and generosity we often attribute to a saint. Katie loves to give to others, often more so than others have given to her, but she likes to keep it that way.  It’s the kind of person she is. Sometimes, I think she is the reincarnation of a saint.

I believe that Katie was brought to this world to restore my faith in humanity, at a time when emotional roller coasters brought out the worst in me.   She is the reason I became much more tolerant of human deficiencies and more forgiving of others.  But she is also the reason I learned to defend myself and never let anyone step all over me.  Katie knows where the boundaries are.

She is just perfect.  Her life seems so perfect.

Or is it?  She is from an upper-middle-class family and went to school with bankers’ sons and daughters.  Her parents must have taught her well. How do I explain her mild manners and the perfectionism with which she handles her troubles and the pure-heartedness in the way she treats friends and strangers?  Did her parents also teach her those impeccable moral values?   Well, what I also learned from our time together is nothing is what it seems.  Everybody has a story to tell. And every smile is inscrutable. No matter how genuine the smile, it is not a window to a soul. That soul is sometimes a shattered one. Only spoken words can reveal the true story.

One night as we sat down for coffee, we began to exchange life stories.  What Katie revealed to me that night is still as fresh in my mind as the air I breathe. It is a story that upended my idealistic view on what constitutes good versus evil. What constitute a good person is never a straightforward formula.  An ideal upbringing is not necessarily the path to become a good person. Conversely, a broken childhood is not a recipe for a disastrous adult life. Every one of us has a different response to abuse, insults and punishment.  There are those who collapse under those circumstances and project their anger on innocent people. They go on to be manipulative and sometimes have a brush with the law.   There are those like Katie who are determined to never be pained by those emotional and psychological scars.  For Katie, life must go on even if it seems hopeless.  Instead of projecting resentment on the world, she projects nothing but warmth.

Katie, I will always respect you for the lessons you taught me. I hope our paths will cross again.