Monday, November 9, 2009

Feathers In The Wind

Years ago, when my mother was a little girl, she was asked to give a talk in church. She wasn't sure what to talk about and my grandfather, who was a wise, fun-loving man with a great sense of humor, came up with an idea. He instructed her to gather all the feathers she could find. This wasn't too hard, since they lived on a small ranch at the time. He handed her an old pillowcase, and told her to stuff it full of the feathers. Then he told her what to say, and how to handle the prop he had helped her create.

The day of the talk arrived. My mother stood behind the pulpit in the chapel and talked about the evils of gossip. She explained that when we spread rumors, or create stories about people, it was like casting feathers into the wind. She then opened the pillowcase full of feathers she had brought with her, and emptied it into the room, much to my grandmother's dismay. It was a very effective, though messy object lesson. My mother stated clearly that day that once you spread a story, whether it's true or not, it will float around, much like the feathers were doing, and it was impossible to retrieve those stories, or undo the damage wreaked by gossip.

People in that ward talked about my mother's mini-sermon for weeks. An important point had been made. My grandmother, meanwhile, saw to it that every feather was gathered in that small chapel. My mother and grandfather spent well over an hour picking up each one. ;)

I'm sure we've all been victims of gossip. I'll never forget the day I was approached by a woman in our ward. I was attending a stake Relief Society event---I had been asked to take part on the program that day. When it was over, this woman came up to me and said, "What are you doing here? You were life-flighted out this morning!"

Obviously this woman was wrong, since I was standing right there before her. I had endured an entertaining adventure the night before this woman saw me, which had led to all of the rumors floating around our valley. I had suffered a toxic reaction to a high-powered medication that my doctors were hoping would kick the lupus into remission, a medical condition that had been quite active for several weeks. This medicine had all but shut down my kidneys and that night, I endured my one and only ambulance ride to the local hospital where I spent a long time in ER, and an even longer time in ICU.

When it was determined that my heart was not involved, and I was no longer in mortal danger, I was eventually released from the hospital a few hours later. I was taken off the medication that had caused all of the trouble, and though I didn't feel the greatest for a few days after that, I was hardly floating around in a Life-Flight helicopter.

It seems to be human nature to jump to conclusions---to think that because we've seen or heard something, it is gospel truth. Most often, we know nothing about the situation and we do more harm than good by sharing our take on things.

We've been counseled by our Savior to avoid judging others. It is simply not our place to point fingers. As He said long ago, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." As I recall, everyone who had gathered there to stone a woman they had figured deserved that harsh treatment, quietly dropped their stones and walked away.

In today's crazy world, we need to do likewise. We live in a turbulent time. We need to lift each other up, not tear each other down, and we really need to cease casting feathers into the wind. This kind of negative behavior hurts so many lives. We rarely know the whole story--we simply know our take on whatever it is. But when we run around sharing that small portion, untold damage is rendered. It's much like the story of the six blind men who examined an elephant, trying to understand what it was:

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

John Godfrey Saxe

I suggest that in the future, we try to be kind to one another. Instead of spreading feathers in the wind, spread understanding, kindness, and warming smiles. Emulate our Elder Brother's example in lifting the weary hands that hang down. Be among the bridge builders, not the demolition teams.


Doran & Jody said...

Love it! Love it!

Just like everyone else, I need to be better. Years ago one of the things that I wanted my kids to always remember me by is that I did not talk bad about anyone. I try to remember that every time we are in conversation. I slip sometimes but I try to do better all the time.

Years ago in another ward I had a couple of visiting teachers that would come and visit me. Well let's say they came to my house to gossip about others and didn't really ask about me and my family. I finally had enough and told them, "If you want to come to my house to visit that is great but I will not tolerate any more gossip about other in my house". I think I shocked them but you know what...they continued to come and the gossiping stopped.

Not only do we need to bite our own tongues but we need to be brave enough to stop other gossip going on around us.

Great post and reminder! Thanks!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Jody, you are an awesome woman! You are setting a wonderful example for everyone around you.