We’d like to be humble…but what if no one notices?
We’d like to be humble…but what if no one notices?
We wondered what our wee granddaughter was talking about when she asked a question about “skin people.” Her story books were full of talking fur or feather people, she explained, so she wanted her mommy to know she was talking about other kinds of people who look like us.
“They’re called humans, Honey,” her mommy answered.
The next day, within the hearing of other shoppers she asked, “What are those humans doing over there?”
More than one head turned.
I realized that many children’s stories meant to teach a moral lesson use personified critters –clever foxes, wise owls, sneaky snakes, innocent baby bears. It’s easier for authors to frame a story when you are in control of the rules in the fictional world simple characters live in. It works. Kids love it, and there are fewer stupid human tricks for us to explain.
Lately, she’s been asking me to tell her stories about me or her mommy or my friends. At nearly six-years old she has become a student of skin people nature, which can be pretty baffling at times.
Since we were discussing birthday plans I told her this true story about my friend and a birthday cake. There were two people who loved to play jokes on each other. One year “Dolly” decided to play a big trick on her friend, “Burt.” She hired a baker to decorate a cake made up of doggie biscuits frosted together (because he had already played a joke with doggie biscuits on her). From the outside, the birthday cake looked fantastic. Then she dropped it off at Burt’s house. He wasn’t home, so his wife took it gratefully and said she would give it to him later.
After a few days she had not heard anything from him and wondered if his feelings were hurt, so she phoned him.
“The cake was amazing,” he said. “Wow. Thank you so much!”
“It tasted good then?”
“Marvelous!” he gushed. He paused and then said, “I’m sorry, Dolly. I have to I have to tell you what happened. I was tired when I got home so we put it in the freezer and thought we would bring it out when we had company. But last night my wife suddenly remembered she promised to supply the cake for a birthday party for a person at the Old Folks Home. It was too late to order one and yours was beautiful so she brought it down to them this morning.
“Oh No! Did they give the dog biscuit cake to the old person, Nana?” granddaughter asked.
“Well, Dolly called the baker and asked him if he had a cake in the shop she could have and he did. So she hurried over there and bought the cake and rushed to the nursing home with it. She ran into the kitchen and asked the cook if Burt’s cake was there because she wanted to trade it for a fresher cake, but the cook said the cake was already in the dining room for the party. Dolly ran to the dining room.
“Don’t cut that cake!” she yelled.
“Why not?” everyone asked.
Just then Dolly’s friend Burt came in the room and everyone laughed and laughed because they were all playing a joke back on her. Burt knew the cake had dog biscuits inside and he told everybody he was playing joke on Dolly. He already had another one there for the party.
“Why was it funny?” my granddaughter asked.
“Why did she make a cake of dog biscuits? That would taste yucky. That could hurt his feelings.”
“How did Burt know there were dog biscuits inside? Why did he tell his friend he was giving it to the old person? Wasn’t that a lie?”
“Why did the lady forget to order the cake? Didn’t she write it on a calendar?”
“What bakery did Dolly go to?”
Well, I thought it was funny. My next story will start with “Once upon a time there were three bears…”
Skin people communication is so complicated. Friends who understand each other can share practical jokes and laugh at the re-telling for years. Let-your-yea-be-yea-and-your-nay-be-nay people will ask, “Why would you give me a dog biscuit cake? Why would you dishonour me this way?”
Nothing is more shaming than being told your attempts at communication with people you care about have been interpreted in the opposite way you intended – especially if they wait for years to tell you that they have only been smiling politely and they have found you offensive all this time.
Sometimes in our attempts to make connection too much is assumed. It’s like we have only a partial picture of this skin person and they are much more complicated than we think because unlike illustrations of fur and feather people in story books they keep bouncing out of the frame.
The moral of the story: Never assume you understand skin people. Never assume skin people understand you.
Do you know what I mean?
I laughed out loud when I saw this photo these kids’ dad sent me. (He gave me permission to use it.) He captioned it, “Someone likes cake.”
It gave me joy.
I realized later this is a picture of hope. Talk about vision-led endurance.
The hope in the heart of the believer is not a wish to win the lottery or that our team wins. Hope for the follower of Jesus Christ is an expectation that he is true to his word, that what we have seen and have come to believe about who he is and his promises to us is being accomplished. It’s an actual substance we can see by faith.
Hope is joyous anticipation that the promise of cake in the oven will be fulfilled in the mouth — maybe with a little ice cream on the side.
This is a public domain photo of Mark Twain with his shirt back on.
Apparently reports of Mr. Twain’s death have been greatly exaggerated for just last week I received a nude photo of him on Facebook. I put him down as one of my “likes” but it would seem I did not define the nature of the relationship adequately, for there he was in all his understated glory staring expectantly at me (from the waist up, of course. Decorum, please, madame.) I tried to let him down gently, but….
I have enjoyed Facebook. It has expanded my circle of friends from those who I really intended to phone, to those to whom I really intended to send Christmas cards, to those with witty online personalities, to friends of friends with interesting online personalities to a couple of people I can’t for the life of me remember, but I don’t want to admit the possibility of early senility, so there they are.
But lately I realize that I need to dislike some things. Hey guys, when I said I liked your book, or film or cause I didn’t mean we should move in together. I don’t need updates on your latest whereabouts and definitely not on your reactions to spicy food.
And Twitter? Thus far I have avoided Twitter (because I know I would probably add another addiction and lose even more time on there.) I know everybody with influence tweets and I realize the benefits of learning to write succinctly, and I think there’s a verse in the Bible somewhere that says something like, “Where many words are spoken transgression is unavoidable,” but I think there ought to be one somewhere there that says, “When quoting oneself out of context beware of cynics, heresy hunters and fans.”
Fans may be the most dangerous. For a brief time, long, long ago, I had a taste of knowing what it was like to live in a world where more people knew me than I knew back. Big fish in little pond stuff mostly, but enough to realize that anything one does or one does not do can and will be reported by people who specialize in knocking the stuffin’s out of one and replacing it with straw.
I have read articles about myself that prompted me to say, “This sounds like someone completely different from anyone I have ever known. I would like to meet this person.” (Never, never read your own P.R.) I’ve also read articles that credited me with statements I swear never passed my lips.
What upset me about my few fans is that they assumed they knew me, and oddly enough, that I knew them. They knew a few stage personas and thought that spending time reading about me was as good as spending time with me.
The preacher in a church I visited today pointed out that the difference between being a follower of someone on social media and knowing them personally was like the difference between reading about Jesus Christ and getting to know him by actually spending one-on-one time with him.
If Jesus tweeted, “Fed fish burgers to 5000 guys today” he’d get a thousand “way-to-go-dudes,” but how many would sit down with him after the crowds had gone and ask, “So what did you mean when you told us to feed those guys ourselves? How on earth are we supposed to do that? You can really baffle me sometimes. I’m tempted to go back to my day job, but I mean, wow, I just saw it happen my with my own eyes –in my own basket. Who are you?”
Sometimes on Facebook, because we are reminded of people’s activities and comment on their statuses, and they on ours, we think we know them. We don’t. We know their grandchildren are perfect and they baked 12 dozen buns, 6 dozen muffins and changed the oil in the Mazda before starting their 7 a.m. shift, or that politician’s names flame out of their keyboards like cuss words, or that the trunk full of cases of beer is intended, not for a party of 36, but a party of four guys and a labradoodle, but we don’t really know them.
I was reminded recently that I can miss it by a mile. I congratulated a couple on the birth of a child only to discover, when the photos came out, that the mother was not the wife my friend had last time I saw him. In fact she looks about 20 years younger. Awkward.
Nothing substitutes for real relationship. So read the Book, read books about the Book, talk to friends of Jesus, but don’t think that anything but real relationship is real.
Matthew 7:21 “It is not everyone who keeps saying to me ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the man who actually does my Heavenly Father’s will.
22-23 “In ‘that day’ many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we preach in your name, didn’t we cast out devils in your name, and do many great things in your name?’ Then I shall tell them plainly, ‘I have never known you. Go away from me, you have worked on the side of evil!’”