This Easter and Passover season, I can't stop thinking about a cocktail party.
I know it sounds weird, even sacrilegious.
But it ended up being darn near a religious experience.
It was a couple of years ago, Holy Week, and I'm at a charity event, to which a friend had invited me.
Maybe it was the driving rain storm that night, or the accidental fact that the group I was with was in a surly mood.
But let's just say they weren't happy.
Particularly one older woman.
She was fit to be tied.
Angry that it took the better part of 40 minutes to get a cab.
Angrier still at her assistant who never got her a car to avoid her having to wait 40 minutes to get a cab.
Angrier even more, truth be told, she didn't much flip over these ghastly charity functions for which this night she had to wait 40 minutes to get a cab so she could attend.
They should save the money on the party and just give it to the damn charity, she blurts out.
Then an older man wearing a uniform I suspect in his 70's or so gently interrupts and lets the woman know a large benefactor is throwing the party.
She's still not impressed says if the damn charity means so much the benefactor should just give the dough to the charity and shut up.
Says events like these are a dime a dozen before moving the conversation back to herself.
And all the charities she's given to but they never thank her, the workers who don't appreciate her, and the colleagues who never recognize her, even her own children who apparently don't call her. Or at least call her that much.
She moves onto how difficult it is to get good help these days.
Says kids in general don't care these days.
No one is like they were in the old days.
Then she says with a straight face the biggest problem in the country is the lousy attitude in the country.
The older gentleman smiles, but says nothing.
She goes on to bash how soft America has become, and I notice he just cocks his head and looks inquisitively at her still not saying a word.
When I desperately try and steer the conversation to something, anything more positive. I decide to ask this guy a question.
Are things as bad on your battlefront, sir?
He smiles. Shakes his head no, "good days, bad days," he says. Then he walks off.
This woman immediately turns and says, "Well, he's a ball of fire, isn't he?"
But I just couldn't take my eyes off this gentleman quietly, almost painfully, making his way across the room
There was just something about him. I asked some others who he was. Most had no idea.
Then I stumbled upon an old colleague and friend, who explained the man's name was John. And all he knew was that John was a retired general and host for this event for wounded soldiers returning from battle.
"Wow," I remember saying. "That's amazing."
"No, here's the amazing part," Neil, my friend says.
"He lost a leg in battle, and three months ago, his son gets killed in Iraq."
I'm stunned. But my friend says it gets worse. Tells me the general's wife just passed away after a year-long battle fighting breast cancer.
From all reports, he's all alone. The general, has nobody.
Incredible, I say. I can't wait to hear what he has to say this night.
My friend says, "Well, you'll be disappointed. Because he doesn't do the talking. A well-known politician in the room will this night would do the talking that night.
Apparently, the general even ordered him not to mention his name.
Just pound the cause.
And urge all attending to cough up more dough this night to the cause. Keep saying wounded soldiers depended on them. All of them. Even that whining woman, I was hearing again.
Still yammering about how tedious the evening still was and how she had shown her face and now it was time to boogie and go and so she does, brushing by the colonel who thanks her for coming. She barely glances at him.
But I can't take my eyes off him.
I desperately want to say something to him. But what? How?
All I remember blurting out is, "I'm so sorry, general."
All I remember his saying back is, "I'm sorry for the horrible night."
I knew he knew I knew. But i knew he didn't want to pursue what I knew.
And that was it. And he was gone.
A man who had little to say, but whose life spoke volumes.
And it got me thinking, it happens sometimes.
About a woman who couldn't stop complaining, even though she had so much for which to be grateful.
And a man who wouldn't even start complaining, even though he had ample reason not to be grateful.
That night I remember a lot of people talking about that thunderstorm raging.
Me? All I remember is a retired general's silence and it was deafening.
I hope he's having a happy Easter wherever he is.
Because we're all the better for him, and so many like him for quietly doing what they do.