He would tell me “stop worrying about what you’re saying, just open your mouth and say something”
I can honestly say that one of the most valuable lessons I learned from Ricciardi was the importance of viewing rejection as positive. Yea, sounds crazy huh? Take a minute and look through his eyes for a moment. He believed that when we were experiencing rejection, it was an opportunity to prove our commitment to the Lord. He felt that it was an opportunity to prove to the person rejecting our message that we are truly servants of the Lord. It’s amazing the effect it has to smile at someone who is being rude to you, perhaps even yelling and cursing at you, making fun of you and then respond like Ricciardi and say “sorry to upset you, please have a nice day, if missionaries come by someday in the future please don’t be mad, give them a chance”.
I would get angry during one of these confrontations and as a young “don’t know much” missionary let my temper get the best of me and say “you shut your mouth” or “come out here and get me off your porch” (sad to say I actually did say that once…or twice). To be honest, in my early, immature first few weeks, fighting back made me feel better. It didn’t take long to realize that it would be a very long 2 years if I spent it telling mean people that they are ignorant and to shut up. When I would say to Ricciardi, “why did you apologize to that jerk” he would say “because it makes me feel happier”.
He understood that happiness is truly a choice, not a random event
He believed that rejection of any kind was a sure sign of the FACT that God lives, and was an affirmation of the rightness of our mission. One thing I remember vividly about Ricciardi was his ability to not let things get him down or upset. In fact, on the more difficult days (and you know there are always plenty of those), he smiled and laughed more. On those particular days I found his extra dose of “happy smiling Elder” annoying. Yet again he would prove its value to me. He would say “Elder Humphrey, I know we are in tune with the Lord, because He sent us to a neighborhood where no one wants to listen, and they are mean and confrontational. When I am prayerfully led to these kind of situations, it confirms we are being led by the spirit because Our Father knows how bad this neighborhood was going to be, and expected us to leave 20 houses ago.
Yet here we are. This is awesome. It was this kind of talk that led me to conclude that something was either not normal with my Italian compadre OR he was one of the three Nephites. After seeing how, and what he would eat, I eliminated the “three Nephites” theory. When I was in high school, I worked at a golf course. I became friends with the assistant pro and he started to give me free lessons. I quit after about 10 lessons for one simple reason: I was frustrated by the 55 things you have to think about almost simultaneously in order to have a good swing. The club pro finally advised me to stop taking lessons, go play and do one thing for him, just swing, swing, swing.
That’s it. Do not give any care as to where the ball goes, just swing. He told me “Danny, you will enjoy golf better by just swinging”. The same applies to missionary work. Ricciardi saw the mission experience as incredibly simple. He understood that his mission was to speak to as many people as possible and that was it. Yes, there’s a lot more to it than that, but a mission is nothing without talking. I took that advice to mean the Lord would always fill my mouth with exactly what to say. Truth is, I said some pretty stupid things, offended people many times (mostly accidental of course).