When I was visiting my brother last March, he said something in jest that stuck with me. He said, "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand!" While it made me laugh, it struck a chord with me too. I think we all feel that way sometimes. There are certainly days when I feel that way, even though I know that is not what we are called to do.
The truth of the matter is, if you think about it, people are what make up humanity, so people are what we should love. All of them. That's a tall order for anybody. It's a struggle we all face every day. All day.
The thing I tried hardest to instill in my kids, (and to live it myself), is to employ the old adage, "You can't judge a book by its cover." Of course what might immediately come to mind in these days and times would be not judging a person by the color of their skin, or their accent, or their difference in culture from ours - but while that is part of it, that is not what I am talking about exactly. I'm talking about our everyday dealings with the people around us, strangers, friends and family alike.
We all know that looks can be deceiving. The person you think you can love (just by looking at them) will turn out to be the one who treats you the worst. The person the world deems "unloveable" can turn out to be the sweetest soul you will ever come in contact in.
Last week when we were traveling, we were waiting to board our plane from Memphis to Atlanta. There was a young African-American girl there - very tall and thin and covered with tattoos and piercings. She was dressed in atrocious clothes that were two low, too tight and too short. If she had been my daughter, I'd have never let her out of the house dressed that way. she was, under all that, quite lovely, however. I did not realize she had even noticed me, as she had her phone in her hand and earphones in her ears.
During the boarding process, I got separated from Richard for a minute and as we got to the door, she stepped aside to let me through the door first and softly said, "You go first, ma'am." I thanked her of course. I was really taken by surprise, to be quite honest. Her gesture was gracious and unexpected, and it gave me cause to reflect on the goodness there is in people. It was a simple gift she gave to me that day, but it gave me cause to think about loving people just for the sake of loving them.
This past week, I watched two Italian movies- One was "Therese of Liseiux" and the other one was "St. Clare and St. Francis." They were both excellent and I learned a lot. The film about St. Francis was quite enlightening to me.
Francis was raised in a family of means and his father gave him anything he wanted. He gave it all up for Jesus. When he saw the lepers, the most unloveable of all, his heart was moved with pity and the love of Jesus flooded into him. He walked among the lepers and embraced and kissed them, much to the chagrin of his father and his townspeople. He changed and has become to some, the most beloved saint. He is probably one of the most recognized saints, even among non-Catholics.
Watching that movie gave me some insight into why the Holy Father would chose the name Francis, and why he lives and preaches as he does. He, like Francis of Assisi, has a lesson to teach about holiness and unconditional love.
Fr. Dave O'Connell, the priest from whom I learned my catechism, and who confirmed me, taught me that we must let others see Christ in us. If Christ is in us, we must love as He did. It's a tall order, and one I fail at every day.
I am endeavouring to love as I should- to love the people who make up humanity.