He sat at the corner of the table, and I could sense he was nervous from his sweaty palms when we shook hands and from the forced, tight smile that seemed to hurt his face. I tried to make small talk like where did he live, was it difficult to get in today. I knew he had worked in the military. I asked him about that. He said it was the military, mostly on the West Coast, and recently in the area. He mentioned he was from the area so he was glad to be back.
Unable to delay the dreaded conversation, I launched into the discomfort that we all knew was coming.
I explained the reason for the meeting and that we mostly wanted to understand his situation and determine if our conclusion that he was not able to fulfill his duties was correct.
He seemed to gain composure at that point, sat up straight, and provided details that corrected some of our perceptions.
Within about five minutes I knew all of my previous beliefs and perceptions about him were off. I had prepared to meet a mousy guy, riddled with demons from somewhere that left him paralyzed from tortured thoughts. I expected to meet someone full of anxiety, constantly wringing his hands and fidgeting about.
The man I met was nervous, as any of us would be, and to my surprise he was filled with clarity and purpose. I knew my assumptions and conclusions about why he was unfit for his job were incorrect. And in his explanations of how he ended up where he found himself, I saw hope and a path to make him whole.