Author: Ramos, Jean

Sticks and Stones

It never ceases to amaze me that we only have 26 letters in the alphabet and yet we can use those few letters to make up every word we need to communicate all that we want to say to one another. In the English speaking and writing world, we all have access to the same letters and like anything else, some have more skill in their use than others. There is so much power there at our disposal.

When my friend Cliff takes a hold of these letters and strings them into words, he has a way of getting his point across by bouncing those words around; hitting your funny bone before ricocheting around inside your cranium and finally hitting your heart.

JD Rhynes takes many liberties with the arrangement of the letters when forming his words; giving you the impression that his heart is really in his roots as a country boy. He uses words like yer, fer, if’n, and onliest, all the while cleverly spinnin’ one of his yarns, taking us along with him on one of his memory trips where we vicariously enjoy his antics with his ole buddy Vern.

Words are powerful. They have the power to heal, and the power to destroy. Words can make you laugh or make you cry. They have the power to influence others for good, or the power to incite a riot. A timely word can make your day and an untimely word, spoken in an unguarded moment, can ruin your day, and maybe even ruin your life. I’m reminded of that Tom T. Hall song, called “Turn it on, Turn it on, Turn it on.” It was about a young man who, through no fault of his own, was declared too sick to enlist in the military back in 1944. Folks started calling him a slacker and coward. Their words had a profound impact on him until he finally “snapped” and took matters into his own hands in the form of a big box of bullets and a forty-four. He took out everyone who had badmouthed him and ended up going to the electric chair; his last words were, “I ain’t no coward, turn it on, turn it on, turn it on!” This is an extreme example, but makes the point concerning the power of our words.

Many of our kids in California started back to school a couple weeks ago. There was a post that was popular on Facebook about that time, an admonishment to students; it went something like this: If you see someone who is struggling to make friends or being bullied because they are shy or not pretty or because they aren’t dressed in the latest “in” thing, please step up. Say “hi” or at least give them a smile. You never know what that person might be facing outside of school. Your kindness might just make a BIG difference in someone’s life.

Seven of the elementary schools here in Brentwood introduced “Rachel’s Challenge” this year. It’s a program that encourages students to be compassionate and kind to others. Rachel was the first victim of the Columbine High shootings in 1999. It challenges students to perform random acts of kindness in the hopes that it will create a chain reaction. This program has been warmly received and accepted.

In preparation for this message, I queried my Facebook friends, asking them to share their stories of bullying with me. It’s a problem that’s been around nearly forever. One touching response was from a single mother of two teenage boys. When she came to their defense, she herself also became a victim.

A banjo pickin’ friend of mine said he was picked on by a really mean kid from 3rd through 6th grades. My friend just took it the best way he could but when they got in Junior High, both boys went out for wrestling. He was able to avenge himself in a way that was appropriate and acceptable. He said that on their first practice they were paired up and he nearly broke the bully in half and pinned him in about 30 seconds. After that, the kid wanted to be his friend. It turned out that all the previous bullying was a big motivator for my friend in his wrestling.

Sometimes we may need to step in on behalf of someone else who is being bullied. One responder to my query said he did just that. He got in trouble for fighting in school, but believed he had done the right thing and I’m sure that the person being bullied was grateful that he had a champion.

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Actions speak louder than words.” I was very encouraged by a recent post on Facebook by Erin Van Zant. There was a picture of her daughter Chloe holding a poster that read, “Vote for Chloe for Class President.” She went on to tell a story of how Chloe has a class mate who was campaigning for a position as a class officer; in lieu of posters he had decided to give out little picture frames for his campaign. Some kids began making fun of him and his little frames. This mistreatment had a profound effect on Chloe. She went home that day and enlisted the help of her friend Snap and together they made campaign posters for her friend. They went to school early the next day and hung the posters. When the boy arrived at school and saw the posters, it put a BIG smile on his face. When Chloe gave her campaign speech, she even encouraged her classmates to vote for her friend. Chloe’s family and friends are very proud of her and the compassion she has shown to others. Chloe could have just ignored what was going on, letting the mean words of the other kids hurt her friend, but she chose to do something positive, and who knows what long range effects her kindness will have.

There are some two and three-word phrases that can have everlasting effects: “I do,” “Thank you,” “I love you,” and “I’m sorry.” All of us have spoken words that we wish we could retrieve, (hopefully it’s not the “I dos’). Many of us have had our hearts broken by the careless words of another. If I was smart, I would use the following checklist before I open my mouth to speak: Is what I’m about to say true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Does it tear down or does it build up? Is it an improvement on silence?

I’ll see you all at Plymouth, Lord willing. If you see an unfamiliar face, someone who looks like they need a friend, may not be dressed in the latest style, is unattractive to others…it’s just a banjo picker. Be a champion; make him/her feel the love.

Posted:  8/28/2011

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