A bricklayer routinely complained about the contents of his lunch box. “I’m sick and tired of getting the same old thing!” he shouted one day. “Tonight, I’ll set my wife straight.” The next day, the men could hardly wait until lunchtime to hear what happened.
“You bet I told her off,” the bricklayer boasted. “I said, ‘No more of the same old stuff. Be creative!’ We had one whale of a fight, but I got my point across.” In front of an admiring audience, he opened his lunch box to find that his wife had packed; a coconut and a hammer.
It’s a life lesson that many of us must learn over and over again; kind words and deeds are more effective than angry ones.
This particular day was warm for a Maine summer. I was a camp counselor in the northwestern part of the state and I had been given the job of overseeing a game of tetherball. Tetherball is simple. A volleyball is attached to a tall pole by a nylon rope. The point of the game is two foes try to wrap the rope around the post (clockwise and counter clockwise) until the ball touches the post. It is then that the player can claim victory. A pudgy young teen named Anthony loved to play this game. Because of his disability with Downs Syndrome, everyone let him win all the time. He’d hit the ball, it would twirl around the pole only to bounce off the back of his head sometimes much to the delight of the spectators. One street wise preteen decided during this particular game, she was not going to give him any advantage. As quickly as Anthony hit the ball to her she jettisoned it back to him over his head. In repeated hits to the ball, she quickly wrapped the ball around the post and was quickly proclaimed the winner.
Since the outcome didn’t go all that well for Anthony, we wondered how he was going to react to his first loss. Everyone had always let him win, until now. Setting his steely eyes on her with his arms straight down by his sides, he promptly stomped over to her and faster than a cobra strike, ripped her halter top from her body. With a scream, all the girls stooped to pick up the errant piece of clothing and save her dignity. As we stood in shock over what had just happened, Anthony stood smiling with the biggest grin he could muster; he was vindicated.
I often think we are all a little like Anthony. If a person doesn’t do what we want or a situation doesn’t go the way we want it, we can sometimes do the unthinkable. Instead of us ripping off someone else’s garment, we rip off our own mask of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.
James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger…for this is God’s desire.” I’m only asking, but couldn’t this biblical admonition be taught a little more often on the playground of our own live’s?