The Splendid Mistakes

Now and again, we make a splendid mistake.

One of mine happened when I was getting off the phone with Bob from the State Department. This was back when I was a Congressional staffer. It was a time when I didn’t love the phone. In my personal life, the only folks I regularly called were my parents. I’d usually be asking for guidance, they’d give it, we’d talk about family stuff, then sign off with, “Love you.” But my work necessitated calls morning, noon, afternoon, sometimes night.

And so it was that Bob from the State Department and I were on the phone, talking about a trade agreement. We hit on economics, impact, timing, then wrapped it up.

Thanks for this, Bob, I said.

Sure, talk to you soon, he said.

And then, the humdinger. As I hung up the phone, I said, Love you, bye!


I froze, my hand still on the phone resting in its cradle. I just told Bob from the State Department that I loved him.


Do I call him back and say, “Actually, Bob, I don’t love you?” That seemed mean.

Do I email him with the subject line, “About that ‘love you’ thing…” That was courting awkwardness.

I sat at my desk, wholly unsure what to do.

Okay, I thought, okay. Bob from the State Department was a solid colleague. I didn’t know him well, but he was nice enough, and a pretty sharp dresser. Would I have intentionally told Bob I loved him? Not likely. But I didn’t not love him, I suppose.

And it occurred to me there at my desk that we put all kinds of things into the world each day, some intentional and some not. We put kindness in when we hold the door, we put unkindness in when we cut someone off in traffic, we put generosity in when we share our brownie sundae with a friend, we put toxicity in when we cut a colleague out of a high-level meeting.

Taken together, all these inputs make up our world.

So I decided, I won’t do anything. I told Bob from State Department that I loved him; our next meeting would likely be a bit odd, admittedly. But I put plenty of unloving things into the world, and if I put love in, even unintentionally, I was okay leaving it there.

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