Many years ago, while in Florida for two years as an LDS misisonary, I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with a man I know as Bishop Skinner. We was the Bishop of the LDS Ward in St Petersburg. I can't seem to recall his first name, or the names of his wife and children (names have always been a struggle for me, so no surprise, really). I remember him as a quiet, sof-spoken, thoughtful, humble man, I remember he was in the Air Force - Colonel I believe. I remember his wife and kids were adorable, sweet, kind... Just plain pleasant folk to be around.
But what I really remember about his were three specific encounters.
The first was a time when I and my mission companion approached him to suggest a change to one of the Sunday school instructors. He was prone to incoherent rambling at times, and we pointed this out to Bishop Skinner, the bishop responded immediately by pointing out several of the mans better qualities, and that was the end of the conversation. I left feeling rather unfulfilled.
The next event was a couple months later. His family had invited us for dinner. I was aware of an interaction he had recently had with a rather abrasive, individual who had been somewhat verbally abusive to Bishop Skinner. I knew the individual, and so had made a snarky comment about the person, by way of sympathy for Bishop Skinner's mistreatment. Without pause, Bishop Skinner responded with a few positive comments about the individual. I was completely puzzled. No smile no smirk, nod agreeing nod.
Two years later I encountered Bishop Skinner and his family again. I was no longer a missionary, he was no longer a Bishop, we were n longer in Florida. Conversation came around to this individual again, and again I made a snide comment, not terribly vicious, but certainly not one which could be confused as praise. Again, without hesitation, Bishop Skinner, responded by listing a few positive qualities that individual had.
It was then that it finally occurred to me: This was a compulsion for him; an automatic response. Any negative was immediately, unconsciously countered by a positive.
I wonder how long it took him to develop that compulsion; to go from an active effort to a habit to an uncontrolled response.
The world could use more Bishop Skinners.