I’ve been referred to by a friend to exchange emails with her colleague who is having problems with her research. I was enthusiastic about the project, her work being about community development.
One morning, she emailed me—introducing herself and the goals of her project. She explained why she wanted to connect with me, and she shared the similarities of my work with her. She seemed respectful…
But, there was something in her that I didn’t like. There was this feeling that I didn’t want her to be my friend. Maybe it was the tone of her message, her rather lengthy anecdote on what she has achieved, and her naïve assumptions on our work similarities (which were, of course, incorrect).
Wanting to be civil and professional about it all, I tried to answer in the best way possible, personal biases excluded. There was nothing about “What I feel about your topic…” or “What your interests are…” My reply was more about—and I assume it was what she really needed—discussing recommended readings, past studies, and personal work and research experiences.
It was a lengthy reply, which was very unlikely of me. It seemed like I wanted to exhaust as much knowledge, learning and experience as I can, sharing everything I think she needed, even the most minute things “just in case.”
I was hoping that the discussion would end in that three-page long email.
After less than 10 minutes, I was surprised to receive her reply, wondering whether she was such a talented reader; or, hoping my assumptions were incorrect, that she lost all interest in reading my work.
“Where did you get that?”
I scanned back on my email, and I was sure, I never missed even a single citation. I even quoted my professor back in college, with date and place.
After several minutes of not answering back, she added,
Okay. I took a long breath, composing myself to fully understand and comprehend her. I tried to think of many excuses: maybe she is too busy and/or naturally sceptical and/or was raised up in an environment where authority is challenged. I put myself in her position, and how I wish I never did the visualization at all— for it just confirmed all the more my initial feeling that she was being too disrespectful.
But I didn’t want to clash with her, for I didn’t want to punish myself for the mistakes of others. (Anonymous) I wanted to make her feel how important mutually-inclusive respect is; and that, in this life and beyond, we will always be bound by our good and bad karma. I wanted to maintain my dignity and integrity, no matter how bad I felt being called “Hoy” by someone I barely know.
So I composed a reply, patiently and peacefully. I told her how important it was for me to impart correct, useful and relevant information to the best of my ability; and if she does not respect the credibility of my work, I would gladly accept it as a sign of growth. I asked, in the end, if she could please point out the contentious information she wants me to clear up on; or, if there is anything else she wants to ask.
I never received a reply.
How would I make of that brief but memorable encounter?
The Universe may have conspired for us to meet, for us to ultimately learn from each other. She taught me the value of patience; and I, hopefully, was able to teach her about respect. In ways we can’t explain, there should have been something within us that bound us together in that specific time and place. Whatever took place on those email exchanges, I am happy to have been both her teacher and student.
If she hasn’t found closure in that, I am sure, in the future, we again will meet to finally work out our differences.
This is why we should always appreciate every person we meet—there is always a reason why we find each other in our lifetime.
Why we meet them, well, that’s beyond our human comprehension.