by Amanda White
I was driving into work one day when I imagined a story that I believed to be unfolding in front of me. A man was driving a beat up old truck just in front of me. Of course he wasn’t driving quickly enough for my savvy driving. If I am being honest, I was following him a smidge too closely. But, didn’t he know I had to get to work? Sheesh.
I watched his head turn to the right several times. I thought Geez, fella. Pay attention. I have places to go. This took place again and again. So much I thought something was up. And then this cute face surrounded by long golden blond hair peeked out from the passenger head rest. Her eyes looked straight into mine as if she was sizing me up.
Now, this is where I am going to admit my insanity. As a writer, I observe the world around me – small details matter. It’s really annoying to everyone around me. I tend to process what I see (or what I imagine I’m seeing) out loud. And, often those remarks or questions are not always the most generous. I find my versions of what I imagine going on to be lightly sinister and often unforgiving. In case you are concerned at this point, this is something I talk to God about regularly.
So, as I am looking into those young, lively eyes staring me down from the junky brown pickup, I have this story forming in my mind based on a question. It’s a question I need answered. Why is she looking at me all of a sudden? I am suspicious. And, then a story begins to grow.
I narrate to myself the following:
Emily could see that her daddy was stressed out. He had used those bad words that Grandma had said not to say. She waited to see if he would quit talking, but she didn’t understand what Daddy meant by “!*@*&# lady driver behind me!” anyway. Maybe Daddy didn’t eat his breakfast. Emily remembered that one day she didn’t get time to eat. She got pretty grumpy when she missed her cereal and toast.
Finally, she decided to turn around and take a peek. She couldn’t quite figure out what Daddy was mad about. She seemed like a grown up lady. She had on a black coat, wore glasses, and was busy driving her car, too. And, then, Daddy said it. “Emily, you remember that people are always out for themselves. They are jerks. Take care of yourself.”
And, as the quick story was wrapping up in my mind, I thought to myself how it must be something like that. There was just something angry about that driver. And, then I had this moment of clarity.
We are always teaching others about the world around us with our words. Yes, our actions and the things we do are very important. But, it is really easy to create an environment of distrust, anger, and often hate with a short phrase. Consider the sheer number of times a person in today’s tech age encounters words instead of action.
We say things we don’t mean all the time. And, as I know from raising two smart, sassy, wonderful girls, they are listening. But, it’s not just my kids. The students I work with at the Lutheran Center are, too. And, then there are my neighbors. And the people who I shop among at the store. And the people I pass on the sidewalk. They are everywhere. (Seriously. There are people everywhere.)
I am not promoting silence. That’s ridiculous. I would shrivel up and die if I couldn’t put in my two cents when an interesting topic arises. That’s why we have Facebook, moms, and wine. But, in all seriousness, speaking out for those who are mistreated and lack power is part of the Christian call. Those are the words we should shout. That’s a scary call, but that’s a whole other topic to discuss.
It’s not the ways in which we should speak, but the lazy regrettable ways in which we talk. I realize this is beginning every so slightly to slip into a “think before you speak” theme, but as I’ve been listening to the political rhetoric lately, the profound power of speech is punching me in the gut. It is round-house kicking me in my face.
However, despite this spiral into despair, I look to the author of all the best words. I give thanks for God’s Word; it is a safe haven, rest for the weary. In God’s Word we can trust. Parts of the story are hard to hear, but it is not manipulated by fear or by hatred. It is driven by a deep, unabiding love. And, that story is legit! That’s a story to be repeated.