Strong opinions not always unwelcome

Editor’s note: — Bill Lewis first wrote this column in November 2017. “Mary” is really Teri Goudie, who died Friday after a courageous battle with

cancer. She was 64.

If there’s one thing I excel at, it’s being “right.”

Just ask me (but not my wife).

And I’m happy to tell you that, in case you don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I know everyone has their own reasons for their beliefs. That’s why I’m always willing to help people realize why they’re wrong. What can I say? I’m just a natural giver.

My guess is you’re a lot like me in that regard. While you may not point out shortcomings in a stranger’s logic, you probably have some strong opinions. These days, it seems everyone who breathes has strong opinions. About everything. All of the time.

I remained blissfully ignorant of this until earlier this year, when, despite intentionally avoiding social media, I got a Facebook account.

“No good can come from this. All it’s good for is either being found by — or finding — ex-girlfriends,” I reasoned, neither of which I needed.

But a new extracurricular group I joined (a “cult,” if you will), refused to connect via email. So, bowing not only to peer pressure, but also to the need to not miss scheduled events, I joined. Secretly.

Once on Facebook, I found “articles” Facebook selected for me. Many focused on people who were “outraged” or “livid” or “angry” with something or someone. In the comments sections, instead of dialogue, I saw ranting, condemnation and hatred (and REALLY bad grammar).

All of this bothered me, and still bothers me. It bothers me because I feel like there isn’t much I can do to combat this whole polarizing mindset that has spilled over into our media, our politics and our society.

At the same time that I joined Facebook, I met “Mary” (fake name). Mary, like others, also spoke her mind.

Sometimes to people’s faces, sometimes behind their backs. She was opinionated and didn’t mince words. Mary didn’t care if you disagreed with her or who heard her. She would tell you what she thought.

The difference is that Mary was always saying positive things about other people, focusing on their strengths, their unnoticed talents and their best attributes. I noticed when Mary spoke to people, they lit up.

At first, I assumed Mary was a saleswoman — a sycophant that gets her way through flattery. The more I paid attention, though, the more I realized, she just views people differently.

While she saw people making the same mistakes I did, she also saw them doing some great things. She chose to comment on their successes and ignore their mistakes.

So I watched, listened to and studied Mary. I still don’t know Mary well, but I want to get to know her better. Based on what I’ve seen, I want to be more like her.

If only there were more “Marys” and fewer “Bills” on Facebook, in the media, and reading this article, just think of what kind of town, country and world we’d have.

— Bill Lewis of Hinsdale is a guest columnist.