At Our Best

July 12, 2016: Guest

A guest brings out the best, in you. He is new in town, having just occupied the long vacated house down the street. The Kahlil’s had lived there for generations and were adored friends by all their neighbors. Their departure left a void on Draeger Drive, until Mr. Andolisi arrived. It had only been one week since he first arrived and already his front yard was manicured and the front door decorated with tall plants and a welcome mat. He was a tall, solemn man. Alone he seemed, and dignified. A stranger he was, we were keen to welcome Mr. Andolisi as a guest in our home. Respectful of the privacy one ought to feel in the comfort of their own home, we waded in anticipation. Mr. Andolisi could be a cordial neighbor or a true friend. The excitement that comes with meeting a stranger is like a wrapped package of curiosity and possibility. We dusted the shelves, removed the covers from the fancy furniture, ironed our nicest shirts, put on our friendliest smiles, brought forth our highest etiquette, and engaged in our most thoughtful conversation. Only once would be Mr. Andolisi be a stranger. Only once would we and him be at our best.


See, in any house where virtue and self-respect abide, the palpitation which the approach of a stranger causes. A commended stranger is expected and announced, and an uneasiness betwixt pleasure and pain invades all the hearts of a household. His arrival almost brings fear to the good hearts that would welcome him. The house is dusted, all things fly into their places, the old coat is exchanged for the new, and they must get up a dinner if they can. Of a commended stranger, only the good report is told by others, only the good and new is heard by us. He stands to us for humanity. He is what we wish. Having imagined and invested him, we ask how we should stand related in conversation and action with such a man, and are uneasy with fear. The same idea exalts conversation with him. We talk better than we are wont. We have the nimblest fancy, a richer memory, and our dumb devil has taken leave for the time. For long hours we can continue a series of sincere, graceful, rich communications, drawn from the oldest, secretest experience, so that they who sit by, of our own kinsfolk and acquaintance, shall feel a lively surprise at our unusual powers.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friendship.



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