Father Madeleine was the name that Jean Valjean preferred from his fellow townspeople, for when he was called by that name he smiled. Probably this smile came as he perceived that he might be growing to love people as the bishop loved people. For the point of this chapter is certainly that Jean was motivated by love and the desire to serve others: Though the gossips were never at a loss for words. People ascribed to him selfish motives, one following another if the first was disproved by circumstance, always eager to satisfy themselves that he was a hypocrite.
But again, people believe what they want to believe, and some people could not take his motivation as pure, for they do not want to believe that t is. I think this type of skepticism comes because people need others to fail to make themselves look good. But to the degree that a person is satisfied in his/her own life, he will be happier and quicker to ascribe righteous motives to the good works of a man. And let us rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15).
In both the rejoicing and the mourning, first active listening is required, and then genuine empathy. Yesterday we met a friend couple in Chik-Fil-A and the man paid my wife a complement and then proceeded to tell me how he had learned to pay attention to hair and dress, thus in effect paying himself a complement. What I should do in these situations instead of being repelled by his awkwardness is say YES. You are right, sir. I have noticed that about you, that you are caring and attentive. Let me rejoice with this man in the small moment for it is an encouragement to him and it shows that I want him to succeed.
And let me be the first to show up to the house where grievous loss was suffered. Not to talk, but to sit and listen. Last week my wife and I visited a friend who had lost her son to suicide. We weren’t prepared with much to say. Only questions, and the hours spent were cathartic to our friends for they talked the whole time of their son’t life and of that sad day when he took his own life. And we could listen and rejoice and mourn with them and pray for them. What a fantastic moment in life. Connecting to people is so much joy, even in the difficult times.
So we see that Jean has taken that road of service and love with eternal purpose. And those other idle souls who judge and complain stand by and brood in their solitary booths, acting as if they are looking down on others from their low perches. No need to judge anyone for any thing.