If Not Now, When?

February 2, 2012 humor in difficult times Comments Off on If Not Now, When?

Some things can wait; the most important things may not. The catch for us as humans is to figure out what can be postponed and what absolutely cannot.

I have always treasured books. Certain authors speak to me in their writing in ways that truly have opened my eyes to new possibilities. And one of those writers was the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr. His books The Art of Psychotherapy and Solitude: A Return to the Self were filled with meaning for me. And I always had wished for the opportunity to hear him in person and perhaps thank him for his inspirational words.

At last one year it happened. It was announced that Dr. Anthony Storr would present a program at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Music and The Mind. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Though Dr. Storr lived and worked in England, he was coming to my city and to an event I attended every year.

With great anticipation, I went to the Ticket Booth to my ticket. Unfortunately, I learned there that all tickets to the event were already sold out.

Well, of course, there would be a Plan B.  I would thus go early to the concert hall where the event was to take place, and carry his book and a sign indicating that I needed just one ticket. One ticket. That wasn’t too much to ask for, was it?

It was. After no one I saw entering had an extra I could buy, I sadly took my book and my sign to another event nearby. Well, if I couldn’t be there, I could at least be in the neighborhood!

After my substitute event ended, I walked sadly towards my commuter train station to go home, pausing momentarily and wistfully outside the sold-out concert hall. But then—but then I saw people leaving the hall. And then another couple exited. Without a plan or really knowing what I was going to do, I asked: “Did you go to Dr Storr’s event?”

“Oh yes, it was excellent.”

“Is he still there?”
“I think so.”

With that, I went in the door and up the stairs down which more attendees were exiting. I had no ticket and no plan and certainly no right to be there. Finally , I saw the rest of the crowd, and there in the distance was Dr Storr. I knew him from the book photograph, and his wonderful British accent also gave him away.

I held my copy of his book out to him and told him how much I enjoyed his writing, and how inspired I was by his work. He thanked me politely and signed my book for me.

“I was unable to get a ticket to hear your lecture,” I said. “But where else in Chicago will you be during your visit here?”

“I go back home tomorrow,” he responded warmly. “I’m a grandfather now and don’t want to stay away too long.”

I thanked him again, wished him well, and left.

I’d had no ticket, no real right to be there, and still felt a bit ill-at-ease about my going in. Still, I had found a way to thank him and had in my possession an autographed copy of his book.

A few months later, I saw in the newspaper an obituary for Dr. Anthony Storr.

And I realized anew: his visit to Chicago had been my last opportunity to meet him and thank him. If I hadn’t taken the unconventional path, I would never again have had the chance!

It was then or not at all.

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