I didn’t listen to Gerry Ryan very much – too often the views he expressed – with characteristic gusto – were views I disagree with – with equal gusto. It’s not that I have a problem with people having views I don’t agree with (so you can all give a big sigh of relief 😀 ) but I find it frustrating when I have to listen for long periods to people – well I have to say it – pontificating if there isn’t any opportunity for those views to be argued, questioned, challenged.
Gerry was good at pontificating and he rarely had anyone on his show who was capable of arguing the toss. To be fair to him, there aren’t that many people out there any more who are BOTH willing AND able to capably argue the toss when it comes to matters of belief. And so, Gerry in his time had quite a bit of influence in shaping the way his listeners thought about lots of things. I heard one of his friends saying that Gerry had his finger on the pulse and could often detect the way public reaction would go: certainly he was good at that, but I feel that some of the reason for that was that he was that he was one of the opinion formers, one of those who shaped public reaction.
But it’s not that I never listened to him: if he wasn’t annoying the hell out of me, he could make me laugh til I cried. I remember in particular the day he got a caller to hold out the phone to a ‘presence’ who was hanging around her house so that he could command it in his booming voice to “leave this house – your time here is OVER, GO! “, checking every so often with his nervous caller to see if his efforts had been successful. My sides were hurting by the time the item was over.
Gerry had a knack of quick understanding of people and their problems. He made people feel he was listening to them – that he cared – even if just for a few minutes – about their concerns. He could be expansively generous: sending one caller on an unexpected holiday, sending another a huge fridge. It wasn’t his money but he didn’t have to do it. And it sounds like it wasn’t just for show: lots of his personal friends mentioned his generosity: with his time, with his advice; with his praise.
So, somehow, even while I could see the harm he was doing to principles I really feel can help people be the best they can be, I still couldn’t help liking Gerry Ryan. I was somehow proud for him, seeing him so proud for himself, the night he got to do the Late Late. I’d have liked to see how he’d have done in the Saturday night TV slot he’d just been offered.
So I’ve been thinking about that since he died: how come he was so likeable in spite of everything? And I think the key is this: virtue is attractive (No – I’m not about to say G Ryan was virtuous – he patently wasn’t very!) and the virtue that is supposed to be at the heart of what we Christians are is Charity – Love: love expressed as giving of self. In other words – generosity. And wherever we find that kind of giving of self, we’re attracted to it, even if the rest of the package isn’t quite so attractive.
So just imagine how effective it would be if us lot, in our efforts to get this Good News out there, tried to be generous in that way: ready to listen; ready to understand; quick to praise, even if giving praise takes a little bit of pride-swallowing on our own part; And imagine if we did our Good News-ing with a little bit of that mad sense of humour too – made people laugh. You know it might help people to forgive us when we pontificate. And it might make them more willing to overlook our own terrible failings. And they might listen to us more readily.
Ah he wasn’t the worst.
R. I. P. Gerry and may God be good to you.
Note: If you’re not Irish and don’t know who on earth Gerry Ryan is, Google him – or in brief, he was a well-known and out-spoken broadcaster who died suddenly last week, aged 53.