One of life’s unavoidable responsibilities is to show up at your friend’s fundraising event. You could send a check. But if she’s been reminding you of the date with cheerful urgency for months, you need to attend.

I think my friend is just thirsty for something creative to do. As I do believe she thinks her entertainment line-up was as good as Hamilton.

I’m joking. But even if I wasn’t, I still had to go. I’d never want to let her down.

Now, I’m a little fearful of formal, round table seating, so I always try to find someone I can see myself making small talk with, since that’s what a fundraiser is all about: coming together in support of the underprivileged, with overpriced food, drink, and auction prizes. And when you look around the room, you can all but see the checks piling up.

One woman looked interesting. At least I wanted to think her palm-tree earrings meant she might be fun to talk to. I put my coat over the back of the chair next to hers and headed for the bar.

We got to talking, of course. She was drinking, too.

I wish I could say it’s possible to recognize what side of an issue someone is on based on earrings alone, but one should never make such assumptions.

And we were only halfway through our arugula salads.

Now, I’ve been a little sensitive about DACA, I won’t deny it; I feel protective. It’s made me think seriously about what I will allow people to say in my company. Especially if their comments lack compassion.

The more she drank, the more obnoxious she became. And so came the probe.

“But your parents probably came legally, right? I mean they didn’t come expecting a free ride?”

My mind started to race. Free ride? How many immigrants do you know who want that? Most come to work at kitchen or field labor. I’m sure you didn’t raise your son to move on down to Fresno to hand pick tomatoes. But to answer your question directly, no, I don’t think my family came legally, they came desperately. It’s why they were called WOPS. Without Papers. The legal process began after they arrived. Oh, and one other thing: May you never have to run for your life.

Why I sat there silently with a smile on my face is beyond me. Maybe because I was trying to be socially correct where the worst thing you can possibly say is the truest thing heating up inside of you. The polite thing to do is just say, “Excuse me,” and pretend to see someone you know.

Turns out I did know someone. My friend! Seated at the head table!

On one of the rare occasions when my father told a story about “the war,” there’s one that still makes my knees go weak: After Mussolini sided with Hitler, his soldiers marched into my dad’s village, and to assure their authority, they lined up all the families in the piazza and proceeded to shoot one mother, one father, and two children.

My sister and I talk a lot about how my dad remained fearful of so many things. And though that didn’t make growing up under his roof any picnic, I now understand. No one gets over seeing neighbors ones shot down like decoys.

After congratulating my friend on a wonderful evening (and it was, she raised a ton of money for her scholarship program), I passed a table where two women were discussing Good Friday, “What is so good about it again? I can’t remember.”

“It’s the Friday before Easter. When Jesus rose from the dead.”

“Now there’s an image that has served men well over the years. Was it before or after he walked on water?” They laughed.

Every once in a while you hear someone who still knows how to make it easy to enjoy light conversation. And if you are lucky, that someone is from your tribe.

Not that it’s ever smart to presume.

MARY LOU SANELLI works as a writer, speaker, and dance teacher. She lives in Belltown.