January 9, 2021 10:40:49 PM
Keeping your words sweet
When we moved to Mississippi ten years ago, we had heard about the state being #1 in tornado sightings and male incarcerations and heart disease, etc. What we weren't told was how gracious folks were. I recall, shortly after arriving in town, hearing the lawn mower repair owner graciously turn aside the angry words of someone who wanted his mower fixed ahead of all his neighbors. When he hung up, the owner apologized to us for being so direct with the man. I thought he was amazing! I found it true with the wait staff at the Cafe, or the flower lady at Kroger, or the garden help at the Co-op, or the folks in the most friendly post office and county tax office I've ever seen. And I've been around.
Are there a few grumpy ones here and there? Of course; people are like -- people. But they just provide us with opportunities to use some grace, defined as undeserved kindness. Try to imagine what they might be struggling with at the moment, and that might help you treat them as you might like to be treated in the same situation.
Now I rarely make political comment, I suppose for three reasons. First, neither I, nor most of the people I know, have the foggiest idea what's actually going on in Old Foggy Bottom. If we did, we probably couldn't sleep at night. When I first arrived here, people asked my what I thought of President Obama. It was a test, of course. My answer? I think he is loyal to his wife and loves his girls, and we need examples like that. Don't ask me about fiscal policy; I don't even balance my own checkbook. And foreign policy? I hardly know where Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are! As my dear mother used to say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
Second, how many people in Washington got up one morning last week with Mississippi at the top of their to-do list? No, if you're expecting Big Government to fix our problems, you'll die before that happens. Thankfully, we have it in our own hands to find the solutions. It's an old two-part formula: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Bringing groceries to a shut-in, singing songs through a window to our quarantined seniors, teaching a disadvantaged child the joy of reading, giving someone out of prison a second chance -- you know the drill -- that's the only way to see real, substantial change in our state.
Oh, and the third reason I don't talk politics? Because I have better things to do with my tongue: words of affirmation to my kids and grandkids, sweet nothings to my wife of almost fifty years, comfort for those who have suffered loss, encouragement for the downhearted, reminiscing about happy times with friends. Remember, we're going to give account for all those wasted words! And if you talk five minutes to me, don't be surprised if I bring the real Problem-Solver into the conversation, Jesus by name.
But while I personally don't find politics a very helpful subject, there is this First Amendment thing. If people do want to express their views, it's well within their rights. My friend, Dr. Huxford, suffered some slings and arrows in this paper recently for doing so. I like having local papers, and I also like it when they don't try to act like city-slicker propaganda. Let's leave the cancel culture and Washington talking points somewhere north of Memphis.
Finally, I would just raise a little warning from someone who has been around the block a few times. When you use your words to put someone in the worst light (nobody who knows Cameron Huxford thinks for a moment that he was "supporting D.C. violence"), don't be surprised if it swings around and hits you, boomerang-like. As the Good Book says, "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Mt 7:2). I want to be as gracious with Tess Vrbin and Anonymous as I would like them to be, so that's all I'll say about that.
So, dear friends, remember it's good to keep your words sweet; you never know when you'll have to eat them.
Editor's note: Mr. Nicholson mentions "Anonymous," an apparent reference to The Dispatch's unsigned editorials. As we regularly post in our print edition, the subjects of our editorials are decided upon by publisher Peter Imes and senior newsroom staff, including Zack Plair and Slim Smith.
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