Saturday, August 22, 2009

Where Does the Bad Stuff Go?

Maybe I'd like to forget it, but I know I never will.

On the other hand, I have gotten so many good laughs out of this moment, I'm not sure I really want to let it go.

I was in my late teens, and we were visiting my grandparents. I don't recall all the circumstances now, but I was riding in the back seat of my grandparents' car, and we stopped to check on some work my grandpa was having done out on a section of his land. While we waited, Grandma opened her car door to let some air in.

Little did she know what else she was letting in.

One of Grandpa's employees, an older man, came over to visit, and hunkered down in the dirt on one knee, just inside Grandma's open car door. We made small talk with the pleasant workman for a few minutes, and then it happened:

Without warning, comment, or fanfare, as a chuckle wound its way down, the man looked down to earth, snorted deep and long, reared his head back, turned to his right, and spat the biggest loogie you ever saw, right smack in the middle of the inside of Grandma's window, not three feet from her face.

I guess it was just one of those moments where you forget where you are.

But in his defense, the ol' boy wasn't totally insensitive to the mess he had made. After a surprisingly slow moment's delay, he suddenly realized his error, and with his usual jovial spirit, declared, "Aw, lookee here what I done..." and began using his filthy shirt sleeve to smear the mucus and spittle all around the window, doing as much harm as good. But he tried, bless his heart.

What to do with a mess like that?

There's not enough Windex in all the world.

It matters where the bad stuff goes, doesn't it?

The spitter in the story obviously broke some critical rules, rules we live by, care about, and expect everyone around us to know and obey. In fact, we tend to judge pretty harshly those who fail to abide by those rules, and probably won't choose to spend time in their presence. And who could blame anyone for feeling that way?

But what if we tried something a little different?

What if we took the rules governing phlegm, gas, and earwax, and applied them to the most toxic, germ-infested forms of human interaction?

What if we practiced the most careful hygiene with:

*The scandalous story about another person.

*The offense taken at someone's stray comment.

*The hurt caused by a friend's oversight.

*The disagreement with a point made in the Sunday sermon.

*The complaint against a child's teacher.

*The bitterness over an age-old slight.

Or, to put it another way: Would we really want to explain to God why we are so careful to keep our noses blown and our ears clean, but so careless, or perhaps vicious, with words and emotions containing sickness far more contagious than any bodily fluid?

Few have actually suffered the misfortune of being spat upon by another person, but who hasn't felt the sting of the wrong word at the wrong time?

Few have actually spat upon someone else, but who hasn't taken advantage of an opportunity to twist the knife just to make the wound bleed a little more?

Some are as careless with hurtful words as that poor workman was when he spat on the window.

Some of the careless are oblivious to where the loogie landed; some realize it, but choose not to care. Others realize the mess they made, but prove as inept as the workman at cleaning it up. (Assuming it's even possible to clean it up.)

A small minority of the careless spitters realize their error, repent, and in humility clean up the mess, restoring trust in the process.

Still others actually spit on the window on purpose, relishing the chance to maximize the damage of hurtful words.

But what if it really was different?

What if we were actually as careful with our words, especially our angry words, as we are with a used Kleenex?

1 comment:

Paul Ford said...

That poor car window must still be cursed until this day... ugh. :)

The jovial man would have also acted improperly even if he would have turned to the left. We also need to be careful about turning around the other way and gossiping to others, behind our friends backs.

(I can picture your faces as that happened...) LOL

Thanks for this story.