I know a guy. I can’t tell you his real name. Let’s call him Joe Boots. He’s a great fellow. One of the best. Joe Boots works hard. He’s up early every day. Sometimes he’s at his desk by sunrise. He gets the job done—and done right—with a smile on his face.
That’s not me. I take the late train. I like a cup of coffee in the break room before things get going. I’m known to be a scowler. I’m quite fond of lunch. Joe Boots comes home every night to his beautiful family. He never stays late to have a beer with the guys. Go ahead: Invite me out for a beer. If I turn you down, ask me again. I may have misheard you.
When Joe Boots does go out, it’s to volunteer at his parish. Maybe it’s the first Monday of the month and the Knights of Columbus are meeting. When the boys need someone to do a thankless job, Joe Boots always raises his hand.
Me? I’m the kind of guy who slinks down a little lower in his chair when the call for volunteers goes out. Invisible is my middle name. Too Busy to Help is on my business card.
Joe Boots is not a complainer. When he has a bad back, you have to pry the information out of him. When I have a bad back, you will hear about it. Everyone will hear about it. I will not leave you alone about it.
Joe Boots knows stuff that a man should know: when to change your tires; how to grill ribs; whether Matt Harvey will be a difference-maker in the playoffs for the Mets.
I aspire to this level of masculine competency. Most of what I know I’ve learned from Wikipedia. That includes the name of campylobacter jejuni, the most common cause of bacterial food borne illness in the United States and what you will probably get if you eat meat from my grill.
Joe Boots goes regularly to Confession, though I don’t know why. I’ve never heard him take the Lord’s name in vain. I’ve never heard him curse. In fact, I’ve never heard him utter a cross word toward anyone. He is modesty incarnate.
If anyone belongs in the confessional, it’s me. I make snap judgments about strangers. I break commandments like CNN breaks news. I’ve got a bigger mouth than the Mississippi. Modesty will never be my strong suit.
Joe Boots is not on social media. You can follow me on Twitter @matthennessey.
Maybe you think I’m exaggerating? Maybe you think I owe a debt to Joe Boots and our agreement is that I will pay it off by making him out to be a saint in this column? Maybe you think that making Joe Boots look good requires making myself out to be a bum?
Dead wrong. Joe Boots wants none of this. He needs these words of praise like he needs poison ivy on the back of his knees. He’ll ask why I felt the need to do it.
The answer is: Because I should be more like Joe Boots. I should go to Confession more often. I should be happy with what I’ve got. I should stop complaining so much.
Luckily, Joe Boots is a friend of mine. I can always take inspiration from his good example. Look around—there’s probably a Joe Boots in your life too.
Now, buy me a beer and I’ll tell you about my bad back.
Matthew Hennessey and his family are parishioners of St. Aloysius in New Canaan