I recall a moment when something came suddenly clear. I was sitting on my back porch at Andover when the doorbell rang. It was summer, and school was out; I was at complete rest, probably reading a book. At the front door was an Asian boy named Danny; he had lived in my freshman dorm about six years ago. I invited him in for a coke.
“How are you doing, Dan?” I asked.
“Great! I’m at Harvard now.”
“Wonderful,” I said. I had never taught Danny, and I’m afraid I remembered him as something of a pest.
“I wanted to thank you,” he said.
“Oh? What for?” I replied, truly bewildered.
“Freshman year you were the only person who believed in me. I came to you one time with a problem with a teacher. They didn’t want me to take a course. You said, ‘Don’t worry, Dan. You can do it.’ ”
“Really? I said that?” Amazingly I remembered the moment. I had been trying to get rid of him for some reason, so I simply patted him on the back and said those words. I never thought of them again, until right now.
“You did. And I never forgot it. And now I’m in Harvard and doing well.”
We talked some more, but the moment resonated with me, and does so even today, a quarter century later. Everything matters. Everything resonates. Everything is connected. My careless words filled that boy’s life with purpose. It surely wasn’t me talking and listening. It was God, working miracles, even while I wasn’t even paying attention.