Many years ago I had a confrontation with a person who shoved the figurative knife into my back and really let loose with some awful language.
When I told a friend about it later, he said: “Be grateful your heart doesn’t beat like that.”
It’s the time of year when I think of those whose hearts are cold and my Christmas prayer goes out to them.
I usually talk to one person each Christmas Eve, someone whose path crossed mine, to wish him or her a Merry Christmas. Last year, I dedicated the Christmas blog to all of Citrus County.
This year it’s John Labriola.
You may not recognize the name; I’ve only published it on rare occasions. You may know him better as Library Guy, the moniker I gave to avoid easy publicity for out-of-whack behavior.
I give this community a lot of credit. Once the Library Guy fiasco started, citizens dug in, encouraged elected leaders to do the right thing, and Inverness voters kept him off the city council.
Things seem quiet now. I’m sure that’s temporary, but we’ll be ready the next time trouble rears its head.
Back to Labriola. I don’t think he and I actually had more than a conversation or two. So I don’t know what fuels his behaviors and attitudes toward certain people.
But I will say this: I’m one of those Christians who believe Jesus was born to save the likes of John Labriola and me.
Myl challenge with this blog is I begin to believe the nice stuff people say about me. Before too long, I’m thinking my opinion carries greater value than the opinion of others. What starts as quiet confidence explodes into arrogant self-righteousness.
Don’t get me wrong — I appreciate the kind words. When strangers randomly stop me at Publix to say they read Just Wright Citrus each morning, that’s both humbling and a thrill at the same time.
But I need to keep that stuff in check.
And that’s why I’m thinking of John Labriola. I don’t know why he’s concluded Citrus County is a bastion of heathen activity, but he is either misinformed or is looking at the community through fogged glasses.
I wish he’d see Citrus County as I do:
— First off, just God’s beauty everywhere. Forests, rivers, lakes, bays, really impressive parks, and wildlife. I was walking to Cattle Dog some time back and there, along a sidewalk near the courthouse, a pair of herons wandered along.
— So much to see. Each community has its own flavor. Sugarmill Woods, Floral City, Ozello, Citrus Hills. Homosassa, Arrowhead, DeRosa. Some with history, all with stories. Visit these neighborhoods, see how Citrus County lives.
— Ways to participate in something good. So many organizations because there is so much need. I asked Labriola once whether he helps in the libraries instead of just attacking them, and he said he helps by attacking them. Well, that’s not really what I had in mind. I was thinking more of the twice-annual book sale by Friends of the Library that raises tens of thousands of dollars to buy books and other materials.
Without a doubt: The best solution for me to get out of my own way is to help others. I do that with the blog and in my personal life. Truth be told, I’m miserable at it. I can’t count the number of people in Citrus County who won’t think twice about jumping in to help a friend, enemy, animal or manatee. I admire and am thankful for those folks.
— This is a community of love. I know that word makes some squeamish but, despite all our various brash talk, we'll usually give someone the benefit of the doubt. General cynicism about politics aside, people in Citrus County trust one another. We might not always get it right and we debate the details, but our intentions are good.
This is my home. At Christmas time I’m reminded of the joyous love I’m given here by so many in Citrus County, especially in the last year. And so many I love as well. That doesn’t happen by accident. Great friendships come from doing good things together. This county is filled with people who simply want to help, and I’m blessed to know a few.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Each Christmas it becomes more obvious why I need a Savior. It’s a time when I reflect on my own behaviors and beliefs, and ask God to set me straight.
I don’t know whether John Labriola moved to Citrus County just to cause trouble or not. I know he’s a citizen of our community, a brother on this planet, and I wish him and all of my neighbors a very merry and joyful Christmas.
--Like the government, I'm taking a four-day Christmas weekend. See you next week. Stay safe and warm this weekend, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.