He has a disability that makes us uncomfortable: He never says anything bad about anyone.
Even when he has the opportunity, he just won’t do it, he just can’t do it.
I confess that, like most people, I could spend the greater part of my day at the water cooler – the figurative water cooler since we all drink bottled water – dissecting people, backbiting, gossiping and looking for the negative in my fellow man and woman. It’s a pervasive practice that touches every aspect of our lives.
Even though Jesus told us not to judge, I’ve perfected my skills to the point that most people are guilty until proven innocent.
My wife calls to complain about my daughter. My daughter sends me an e-mail to complain about her boss. I bet her boss is complaining about her staff, not to mention the CEO, the CFO and the CIO. No one lives up to our lofty expectations.
A co-worker sidles up to me and whispers, “Did you know that So-and-So .... ?”
I didn’t know, but I feel like a much better person now that I do know because I can sidle up to someone in the company cafeteria and whisper, “You’re not going to believe this, but So-and-So ....”
We love to criticize. We love to gossip. We love to backbite. And we love to grumble about the speck in our neighbor’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own.
That’s our way of doing things – taking the inventory of our family members, our co-workers, our pets, our presidents, our children, our spouses, our boyfriends, our girlfriends and our grandparents, but not taking our own.
And I thought that was perfectly acceptable social behavior, perfectly normal behavior, until I met Francesco and realized to my horror that not everyone does it. Despite my attempts to lure him into negativity, he’ll never say anything bad about anyone.
“Francesco,” I sneer, “that priest is a pompous know-it-all.”
“He’s working on improving himself.”
“Francesco, Murray is a terrible writer.”
“He’s been getting much better.”
“Francesco, Tanya is such a self-centered person.”
“She has a good heart.”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve said something negative, and he has responded by saying, “She has a good heart.”
What exactly does that mean? What is “a good heart”? How do you get one? Can you buy one on eBay? Do they offer them at the company store?
Yes, Francesco has the annoying tendency to accept people as they are – to live and let live – knowing they’re flawed and yet accentuating the positive. He’s always looking for good in people. Is that normal behavior? I’m convinced that people like him only see the good in people because they, themselves, are good. Christ made them that way to show us it can be done if we just ask for the grace to change.
For most of my life, I confess, I’ve believed people are generally bad. None of us is without flaws, it’s just that we’re impervious to our flaws. You can’t see the picture if you’re in the frame.
So much of our social life is spent backbiting, criticizing and gossiping. How is it that this young man can see good in everyone, even when the good is hard to find?
Edward Wallis Hoch, a publisher of the Marion County Record in Kansas in the early 20th century, once wrote:
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.