I wonder whether you heard about the man who was travelling on an international flight when at lunchtime he opened his prepackaged meal only to discover right on top of the salad an enormous cockroach.
When he got home he wrote an indignant letter to the director of the airline and a few days later a letter arrived from the director not by normal post but by special courier. He was all apologies. His letter read:
‘Dear Sir, this was very unusual but don't worry. I want to assure you that that particular plane has been completely fumigated. In fact all the seats and the upholstery have been stripped out. We have taken disciplinary action against the stewardess who served you that meal and she may even be fired.’
‘It's highly probable that this particular aeroplane will be taken out of service. I can assure you that it will never happen again. ..And I trust that you will continue to fly with us.’
Well, the man was terribly impressed by such a response but later he turned the letter over and he noticed something strange.
Quite by accident the letter he had written had stuck to the back of the director's letter. When he read his own letter he saw a note at the bottom which the director had scrawled for his secretary. It read,
‘Please reply with the regular cockroach letter.’
That's a fairly common trend these days isn't it?
Word processors are whiz at making letters appear personal.
When people pour out their problems it is so easy to reply with the stock answers.
But the pat answer, ‘cockroach letter syndrome’ fails to recognise the uniqueness of each person. The pastoral challenge is to be attentive to a person's individuality and to respond in appropriate ways.