I received a call the other day from my son, a fine young writer, an artist with words, who is living in Los Angeles, where he studied film-making at Loyola Marymount, and has just celebrated one year of marriage.

    He is working a full-time job while trying to establish himself as a screen writer — I think there are three or four others in Los Angeles trying to do the same thing(!)…

    “Dad,” my son said, “I have to tell you. Whatever way I look at it, there seems no light at the end of the tunnel, for me… No one is reading my scripts. And just take housing — houses here, even tiny ones, cost more than a million dollars… that’s out of reach. I see no path that will make owning a home possible for us… So I’m in a sort of dark place right now…”

    “Ok,” I said. “Listen. You have a lot to be grateful for. Begin with that. Then, yes, certainly, it isn’t easy. But you have to be patient, and work steadily. A path will open up for you. Don’t lose hope. Stay steady. Keep the faith. Something unexpected will happen. A little miracle…”

    “Ok,” he said. “But realistically, I don’t see it.”

    “Be patient. Don’t lose hope… Something good will happen.”

    “Ok, ok,” he said. “Ok.”


    Yesterday evening, I received an unexpected call from Los Angeles.

    It was from someone I had not seen in 35 years, a writer I had known in Rome in the 1980s.

    “Bob, I have been trying to track you down because there is unfinished business between us,” he said.

    He is now almost 80 years old.

    “I was doing an examination of conscience the other night,” my old friend continued. “And I recalled a favor you did for me when I had dinner with you in Rome in 1988. I wanted to go report on the situation in the Holy Land, the first Intifada, which had just begun in December 1987, and I really felt I could do a great job, and that God was calling me to go, but my editor didn’t see it that way. So I asked you to lend me the money I needed to make the trip, and I promised I would pay you back.”

    “And did I lend you the money?” I asked — for I had entirely forgotten about the loan.

    “Yes, you did, and I was so grateful,” he said. “Everything depended on that loan. It changed my life…”

    “And how much did I lend you?”

    “A thousand.”

    “A thousand dollars?!?” I asked, astonished.


    I was startled because I do not recall ever having had, in those days, enough extra money to lend anyone a thousand dollars.

    “And you never paid me back?”

    “Well, that’s what I am not sure of,” he replied. “I think I may have paid back part, or even all, but I am not sure. I can’t recall.”

    “Ah,” I said. “Ah. That may be. I do have a vague memory of our conversation, but I had completely forgotten about it… and I don’t remember if you paid me back the whole amount, or a part, or nothing.”

    “That’s why I’m calling,” he said. “As I was in prayer, and examining my conscience, I remembered your generosity, giving me that loan, and I knew I had to contact you and pay you back. To make it right. I didn’t want to leave it undone.”

    “Well, I have to say, you are amazing,” I said. “Not many people would bring something like this up again, after so many years…”

    We talked for half an hour about writing, and reporting, and war and peace, and the Church, and the faith, and growing old, and I asked him where he was.

    And he told me he was in… Los Angeles.

    And when he told me what part of the city he was living in, I realized he was just a few blocks away from where my son was living…

    “Listen,” I said. “How about this: I have a son living in LA, and he just called me and told me he is in a bit of a dark place right now, and doesn’t see any way forward to a good future, to buying a house or having his scripts read, or selling one to make a film. How about this: would you be willing to have a cup of coffee with him, and just talk to him about your own career, and cheer him up a bit? I think that might give him a spark of new hope. Would you be willing to do that?”


    “Then I will send your number to him, and explain who you are, and he will give you a call.”


    “I mean, if he has the chance to sit and talk to you, someone who knew his father all those years ago, over a coffee, it could mean something to him.”

    “Sure, I can do that,” he said.

    “Then you may consider any debt you may or may not owe me for that loan from 35 years ago as fully paid,” I said.

    “You really mean that? Are you sure?”

    “Sure,” I said.

    “Then thank you,” he said.

    “No,” I replied, “thank you.” —RM


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