By Marie Armenia
“ARE YOU IN THE MAFIA?” the woman asked as we stood in the lobby. I was the featured speaker at a women’s seminar. She was as serious as a hit man and continued: “All Eye-Talians are in the Mafia, aren’t they?”
For one of the rare times in my life, I was speechless and wondered, Is this woman seriously asking me, “When you’re not being a Christian speaker, do you and ‘Uncle Tony’ throw people wearing cement shoes in the East River?” Yes, she was.
I replied in my best guest-speaker voice, “Everyone in my family is a Christian. I don’t know anyone in the Mafia.”
She replied, “Well, I could tell you were Eye-Talian because of that bump on your nose. When I heard your annoying New York accent, I was sure you were in the Mafia.” Then she walked away. I imagined running after her, hitting her with a hymnbook, and whispering in her ear, “Uncle Tony sent me!”
“When you’re not being a Christian speaker, do you throw people wearing cement shoes in the East River?”
Stereotyping definitely stifles a more loving existence. I’d like to dispel a few stereotypes some may have about New Yorkers of Italian descent:
- All New Yorkers are bossy. I prefer, “Many of us fully use our spiritual gift of administration and are not afraid to assume responsibility.”
- All Italians eat pasta at every meal. Not really. Every couple of months, when the boat from Naples is late, we might eat an apple.
- All New York Italians say “Fuggeddaboudditt!” 75,000 times an hour, 24 hours a day. Well, we do sleep a few hours a day.
Sentences describing stereotypes place emphasis on the word all. God is the only One whose stereotypes are accurate:
- “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
- All “are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
- The Lord does not want “any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
One Sunday, while visiting my home church in New York, I heard a man named Gus speak about his conversion. Gus would have answered “yes” to the question the woman in the church lobby asked. He finished his testimony by saying, “I kept reminding God of all the bad I had done, just to be sure He knew who He was forgiving. Then I heard Him speak to my heart, and say, ‘Fuggeddaboudditt!’ I knew my sins were gone forever.”
My personal vocabulary doesn’t include the word Fuggeddaboudditt. But as I looked at Gus’s glowing face that day, I knew the Holy Spirit had communicated clearly to Gus, in just one word, God’s amazing grace.