Carl called me aside at the end of a committee meeting. I knew from his face that he found it hard to speak.

“You haven’t seen Pete around much lately, have you?” he asked. Before I had a chance to respond, he hurried on. “I thought you ought to know. Apparently you offended him by something you said.”

I had noticed that Peter had not been regular the past several weeks. I had also noticed that he was not particularly friendly when he did come.

“Offended him?” I asked, wondering what I could have done.

“One Sunday after the service he was trying to get into the church office and the door was locked. You came by and said something like, ‘Hey, Pete, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen you trying to get inside the church. Usually you’re one of those trying to get out.’ ”

I vaguely recalled the incident. I remembered that Pete had laughed and had made some humorous retort as I unlocked the door for him. In fact, as I replayed the whole scene in my mind, the first part of it became clear. He had actually started the lightness by saying something like, “Some people can’t wait to get home for dinner. They lock the doors as soon as you say the last amen.”

“Why, Carl, I was only kidding him.”

“I know. That’s the way Pete is. He’s touchy. He can hand out the banter and even hurt people himself. But you’re on pretty thin ice when you turn around and kid with him.”

“How did you find out?”

“He told his brother-in-law, who told Bill Rosen, and Bill told me.”

I nodded my head. Typical story. Someone gets offended in the church and by the time the information gets to me, it has been filtered through three or more other people.

“Thanks, Carl,” I said.

The conversation bothered me. First, of course, I had hurt someone, though unintentionally. I reviewed ...

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