One of my favorite positive people is author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia. Leo left this world in June of 1998, but not before he gave me a gift both delightful and practical. Before I spent some time between the pages of his books, listened to his tapes and watched him on PBS, I used to be very hard on myself, very critical of my own behavior, especially when it didn’t become the sort of person I was aspiring to be. My disappointment took the form of sotto voce comments to myself, things like, “How could you be so stupid?” “How could you do something so self-defeating and dumb?” My own personal favorite was, “What were you thinking?”
Then came the day when I heard Leo say that, when you’ve done something like this, say to yourself, “You sweet old thing, you’ve done it again!” I smiled when I heard those words for the first time, and I’ve smiled every other time since, when I’ve used them on myself. My unwise act is not changed, but the way I look at it is. This homely phrase helps me to put things in perspective, and to forgive myself, once again, for being human and thus not infallible.
Anyone who ever heard Leo Buscaglia will probably know what I mean when I say that he always seemed full of joy. He made it sound so easy to be like him, and he always seemed to speak and operate from an inner wellspring of strength and truth and joy. I’ve never been told I reminded anyone of Leo, but if I were it would make me very happy, because Leo was one of my heroes. He didn’t just have a plan for the big things, he showed us small ways to begin to make the changes we wanted in our lives. He didn’t mind poking fun at himself or his big, noisy Italian family, and I will always think of him as a kind friend and mentor, who I never actually met. I’m sorry we didn’t, but I know I would have liked him, and I think he would have liked the person he helped me become. Thank you, Leo Buscaglia, for making the world a better place for me and so many others.