Hate the sin, not the sinner

di Joe Volpe del 4 February 2021

TORONTO - Some media just cannot seem to get enough of it. I am referring to their fascination with “organized crime”, the one made famous by American criminal elements of Irish, Jewish and particularly Italian origin. The latter is notably attractive for reporters and their editors looking for a “quick hit”, or in today’s communications strategies, click bait.

Just last week, one Toronto Media outlet ran a piece on “unsolved murders”, from 35 years ago – seemed like only yesterday. It resurrected a scenario of a man, his family and apparent lifestyle in the worst possible manner, perhaps to make it more attractive. I did not like the article.

The victim, a reputed underworld figure, was the father of a student at a I school I co-founded in the City’s northwest quadrant. He and his wife were busy entrepreneurs to say the least. She ran a string of hair salons, he of dry cleaners and small reno/landscaping subcontracting.

Both discharged their community obligations in their local cultural clubs and parishes. Often taking a leadership role in all activities. They could not have had much time for sleep.

Yet both took time out to stay on top of their children’s progress in school, especially their son. “He’s a live wire, sir”, his father would say, “please do anything you feel you must to keep him under control”. I thought the boy was a little mature for his age, bright but a little lax toward his studies; socially, neither aggressive nor a bully, and always deferential.

The family “disappeared” after the father’s demise. The school community took a while to adjust to the news and to the new reality that had become a part of its “identity”. It is safe to say no one had even the faintest idea of any activity that was anything but exemplary.

Then, about a year ago, as I was exiting from a bakery-coffee shop not far from that school, a young man, who was clearly waiting for a guest, stopped me to say hello, “Mr. Volpe, Father Time has been kind to you”. Before I could muster a repost, he continued, “you won’t remember me…Frank…” I recognized him instantly:”… you have thinned out and wear glasses, what are you doing in this area?”

He had moved into a local apartment to be close to his son, “not the least bit like me, sir, he’s a brilliant student on a scholarship in one of the toughest University programs… I’m meeting him in a few minutes for a bite to eat. Would it be too presumptuous of me to ask you to meet him?”

While we waited, I asked him about his mother and himself. She and her daughter had had a difficult time adjusting, eventually moving out of province to be near supportive groups. His sister developed a career. Mom remarried.

“I really mucked up my life”, he said, “I didn’t turn out the way Mom and Dad wanted me to, but I’ve paid my dues, cleaned myself up and started afresh. Now I am concentrated on helping my son, he’s a brilliant student”.

When the young man entered, Frank wanted to fuss about who I was and how he knew me. Overly generous, I protested. We chatted about his University career for a few minutes before I took my leave. “I knew your grandparents, I said, they would be as proud of your achievements as your Dad is”.

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