Day 11 in Proverbs
Where I live, in Statesville, NC, you don’t need six degrees to get you to our Kevins. Only one or two will usually do. If you don’t know somebody, somebody else you know either knows them or is related to them. This has its advantages…..it is rare that you go to a social or charity event and not know someone. Great for someone like me, who as a single sometimes is forced to attend this sort of thing by myself and immediately starts looking for my security blanket people from the time I hit the door. If I know noone, a quick conversation usually gives us a bond. (Or OK, I don’t have any conversation and exit as quickly as possible!)
But this community intimacy certainly has its negatives. News travels fast, good and bad. I usually find out things about my family members before they have a chance to tell me themselves. (Which somewhat indicates that my family members need to stay in better contact!) Often it is a really good thing. Someone knows of good they have done or an example of their integrity or kindness, and can’t wait to tell me about it. On occasion, though, it is negative. A family member may be the best person to tell if you have a concern about somebody, but often that family member is told at the end of the line. By time they have told them, they have already told a string of 50 people. Sometimes it is shielded as concern “I heard this…..should I tell her?” Other times it is shielded as something spiritual. (“I have a prayer request.”) Usually there needs to be a little self-examination about whether you are really out for the good of the person and trying to be helpful, or if you have taken a part-time job running a gossip mill.
That little game we used to play in Youth Group to demonstrate this principle always comes to mind. You stand in a line, with the person at the front of the line whispering something to the person next to them. That person whispers what they heard to the person next to them, and on down the line. You NEVER hear the original statement when you get to the end of the line. Usually it makes no sense whatsoever and has nothing to do with what was first said. But yet…..with most of us playing that game at some point in our life, we still persist in thinking everything we hear is true or has at least a grain of truth in it.
You would think the internet would have further shown people this principle in action. How many emails are forwarded to you or Facebook warnings that a quick look at Snopes.com shows you are lies? Yep, often they are great stories. But they are stories that get presented as fact. Got one yesterday from a friend of mine called “Best Dog Story Ever.” About a guy that adopts a dog from a no-kill shelter, that comes accompanied by a note. Short version, the note says that he belonged to a soldier and essentially if someone gets this note the soldier has died with no family but this dog. Quick look on Snopes….a lie. (In defense of my friend who sent it, he did not send it for the cute story. We’re both cynics about these sort of things. He sent it for the statement at the end that said “If you can read this without getting a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you ain’t right.” He wanted me to know he ain’t right. I assured him I knew that already. He reminded me I ain’t right either and that is the reason we are friends.)
We all should consider ourselves leaders in our city. Leaders don’t have to be politicians (though they certainly have risen up into that role and shouldn’t forget that they are!) We should be the first to set a good example. We need to examine things carefully for truth, at the source. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is difficult for me. I love a good story. Truth or fiction. But how many times have you met someone and the first thing that comes to mind when you hear their name is a story about them you heard? It’s easy to let these things influence how you feel about them. I really try to give each person a fresh start when I meet them, not rush to quick impressions (I have found some of the biggest gems of people in my life I once couldn’t stand…sometimes due to the impressions of others, sometimes my own limited vision), and then to really assess whether people deserve life sentences for misdemeanor crimes. It’s been a difficult transition for me to make in my life, because I have great analytical skills. That means I am critical. Sometimes that is my best quality, and sometimes it is my worse. At this time in my life I am trying to emphasize the positive aspects of it, and minimize the negative. Use it for good and not for evil.
When the weekly newspaper the Iredell Citizen was around, I covered city and county government. I went to all of the county commissioner meetings and many of those of the city council. It was always interesting to me to read the articles written by the other journalists. I didn’t usually have issues with the facts, but often I had issues with the lead story….what was important and what wasn’t. Sometimes I would read what they had written and say “Did we attend the same meeting?” We often had very different points of views. Often there was an age or gender difference in us. There also was a difference in how long we had lived in Statesville and what we knew of its citizens, history and culture. There sometimes was a difference in our background work…..I only reported part time, so didn’t spend the time researching some of the stories of the days. Like I said, we weren’t wrong. Just different points of view. But depending on what you read, these points of views can change minds and influence people to action. You hope it is to the right action, but sometimes it is not. Once emotions get started, they can get out of control.
It’s pretty easy to point a finger at a newspaper……a bit harder to point a finger at your neighbor, who is doing the same thing but a bit more covertly. And probably without as much of a desire to get the facts straight first. We need to be wary of the stories others report. And sometimes we need to keep our mouths shut and not throw gasoline on a fire that should never have been started. You do this by not passing it on.
My goal for our city is that the honest people would prosper. All who know me know that I am not a believer in sweeping negative truth under the rug…..I believe in exposing it for all to see. I like it best when people expose their own negative truth, though. They need to do that to change, and I want them to change. I believe they can change. But our responsibility when someone has the courage to do that? We need to be there to hold their hand and help them get through it. Not enabling bad behavior, not shielding them from consequences, not looking at things with rose colored glasses, but cheering them on in truth as they do the hard work they need to do to become stronger and better and learn from their mistakes. In the long run, that will keep our city safe. And our community strong. And our lives good. Quite frankly, if you only pretend to want their good, you’re one of the dishonest people and are an agent of destruction.
Let’s be the good people and exercise a little good sense. Like most exercise, it has its payoffs. Whether you live in Statesville, NC, or anywhere else in the world.