I’m not sure if it still happens, since our high school didn’t have a school paper; it was too small. But every now and then I’ll read some article that began as an assignment given to a high school student for their local paper. Some girl, perhaps pimple faced and inquisitive, with a notepad or tape recorder, taking her duty perhaps a bit more seriously than we expect her to, shows up at our door at some time we’ve both agreed on to discuss whatever insight we might have on the topic at hand, the topic of this girl’s mind. Abortion, perhaps, or education. The conditions of our drinking water or some other community resource that had been rumored to go bad recently. Maybe our professions caused us to become her target, something she has read about us in public that she will address privately, in the dining room of our home, when the kids are due for bed any minute now.

What if she started asking about your marriage, whether you or your spouse were truly happy? Would you look at one another before answering? What if she quoted something you said at the office where you met so that she could schedule another meeting and now asks you what you meant by it? Would you be tempted to gloat if she asks about your children’s marks in school? If she asked you something about which you had no opinion, would you create one so that she had something to write down, all the while your spouse looks at you in disbelief? Would your spouse start suspecting you? Would you doubt yourself?

When we are no longer in high school or have no journalistic career to speak of, what then gives us cause to ask questions? Do we find it harder when we have little justification other than idle curiosity? Do we stop asking personal questions unless it is some way our business? And if it were our business, why would we have to ask?

I am a pretty nosy person. If you leave open a way for me to ask questions, I will. If you lament that your relationship is failing, I’ll ask you why. I’ll likely ask other things that get closer and closer to why you brought it up in the first place. Most people, as adults, will drop clues to get you asking, even if they’ve already picked a point where you are supposed to stop. Most people want people to care enough to ask, and it varies by degree; some people beg to be heard, others challenge you to ask anything and then turn to stone. Now me, I won’t, I don’t know, peek into your stash of condoms and count them to see if you’ve been getting laid lately or anything, but I will ask questions. So far, few have minded. And, I was never even on a newspaper. I was on yearbook, though, and they didn’t make me ask questions. I came up with captions for stupid candid shots at prom.

I don’t say the wise thing to do is to question everything, as the bumper sticker says. I say choose your battles, and make the most valuable battles those dealing with people, and even then, choose carefully. So often we ask questions we don’t want the answers to and so seldom ask the ones we need to hear.

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