From the desk of Noodle Talk’s Chief Cook and Bottle Washer:

Whenever people ask about Noodle Talk, I like to tell this story:

Years ago, I led a monthly Noodle Talk group at my local library. One of the regulars was a man I knew from a previous group, who made me cringe whenever he opened his mouth to speak. Everything Peter (not his real name) said struck me as one of the stupidest things I had ever heard so you can imagine how I felt when he first appeared at Noodle Talk.

In one of the early sessions, we took turns answering the question, “What is one of the more memorable deals or bargains you have made with the Powers That Be.” It was inspired by something I used to do in college when I was a campus newspaper and yearbook photographer: As I was developing film that I had shot of a particularly important event or subject, I would make a deal with God. “God,” I’d say, “if these pictures come out sharp and well-exposed, I will sacrifice an indeterminate number of other rolls to you in the future.” (What this says about my spiritual understanding at the time is enough to make me cringe today. It was awfully dumb too because I eventually became a professional photographer—only to learn three decades later that God has a phenomenal memory.)

Peter’s answer had an altogether different flavor. He explained that during his second marriage, he and his wife were having difficulty conceiving a child. Time after time, hope and excitement would give way to heartbreaking disappointment. Finally, out of desperation, he prayed to God that if they were granted a boy or girl, he would never ask God for anything else again. And not long afterwards, they had a daughter.

In that response, my entire relationship to Peter went from pure disdain to one of deep respect and appreciation. How could I not love someone who had been through such a painful ordeal and emerged on the other side as a loving, grateful father. There wasn’t another person in the room who didn’t have a similar reaction.

To me, this episode illustrates Noodle Talk’s foundational perspective—that it’s our social masks, defenses, and the psychological games we play that keep us apart and foment trouble, and conversely, our openness and authenticity that make us lovable.

If this weren’t the case, I’d be playing Trivial Pursuits instead.