There once was an old Quaker who used to stand outside of his village and greet strangers passing by. Often the strangers would be travelers looking for a place to settle. They would ask the man, “What are the people here like?”
Whenever they asked this, the old Quaker would ask them, “What are the people like in the village you came from?”
Sometimes they would answer, “The people in the village I came from are the worst. They are rude, nosy, and backward!”
To this, the man would reply, “I think you’ll find the people here about the same.” After hearing this, the travelers would frown and be on their way.
Sometimes the travelers would answer, “The people of the village I came from are the most warm, friendly, and generous people you will ever meet.”
To this, the man would reply, “I think you’ll find the people here about the same.” Hearing this, the travelers would smile and walk through the gate.
The old Quaker in this little parable has a profound insight. We all know people who are endlessly negative. Wherever they go the service is always subpar, the people ahead of them in line are always total idiots, and the people they work with are always out to get them. These constant victims of lesser human beings are never happy. This may have more to do with their hearts than it does with the world outside of them. As disciples, we are called to be merciful as God is merciful. That means forgiving the faults in others the way we want them forgiven in ourselves. It means realizing we are all made in the same image of God, but broken in different ways. It means accepting that the people here are just like the people everywhere else so we might as well learn to get along with them.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…