Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Spittin' Image

The doctor said to a new father, “You have a cute baby.”

“I bet you say that to all the new parents,” smiled the proud daddy.

“No,” he replied, “just to those whose babies really are good-looking.”

“So what do you say to the others?”

I say, “He’s the spittin’ image of you.”

Do you suppose they teach that in medical school?

I’m told that a young mother enlisted the help of a friend in taking her infant identical twins to the doctor. Since the waiting area was full, the two women, each with a twin, were seated on opposite sides of the room. After a few minutes someone commented, “It’s amazing how much those two babies look alike!”

The friend was quick to reply, “Well, they should. They have the same father.” I haven’t heard whether the misunderstanding was ever straightened out.

With identical twins, it’s easy to see that they are the “spittin’ image” of each other. Actually, that term “spittin’ image” stems from an old misunderstanding itself. Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus stories, explained that when an American slave seemed to be saying, “spittin’ image,” he or she was actually saying, “spirit and image,” as: “‘He’s the spi’it ‘n’ image of his daddy.” It meant more than they merely looked alike. Spirit and image – alike, inside and out.

And what makes it even more interesting is the ancient truth from the monk Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), who said, “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” Or put another way, we become the spi’it ‘n’ image of that which we hold dear. We are shaped by that which we admire most, and by the people we love most.

It works like this: Those who admire success may become “the image of success.” Those who admire ambition will, to even a casual observer, look ambitious, perhaps even driven. Those who admire and love the gentle saints of their faith will, more than likely, remind others of those same saints in their attitudes, words and actions. Day by day, we become the spi’it ‘n’ image of the people we befriend, admire and love.

An unknown writer tells a story about her grandmother and a person she deeply admired. The story goes like this:

"My grandmother was born in a small west Texas farming town on August 26, 1929, two months and three days before Black Tuesday, the stock market crash that started the Great Depression. As the youngest daughter of sharecroppers, who earned their living by picking cotton, she knew the meaning of barely getting by. Times were tough and she learned to never waste anything.

Her Uncle Jess was a compassionate man who always treated her with kindness. Each time she would visit him, she always left with the same feeling: I am special. After all, she was the only person who was allowed to drink from his special pink drinking glass. One day, she took the pink glass out to the water cooler, a special room that stored and cooled the water generated from the windmill. Out in the water cooler, she dropped the glass. Looking down at the hundreds of glass fragments, she began to cry. She had been entrusted with this special glass and now it was broken.

Her crying was interrupted when she heard Uncle Jess call out, 'Ruby Nell, I was thinking. I’m tired of that silly old pink glass. Would you please break it for me?'

She ran back to him calling out, with the enthusiasm that only a six-year-old can summon, 'I did it, Uncle Jess! I did it!'”

How many times did Ruby pass that story along out of admiration for her uncle? How often did she remember his kindness and compassion and show the same to others? Over the years of a long life, how many times would she choose to believe in herself because of the way Uncle Jess always made her feel: that she was special? And when life was cruel and people let her down, how many times did she find enough strength to set aside anger and respond in kindness, because that is what Uncle Jess would have done?

As little Ruby Nell grew up, she could do worse than to grow into the spi’it ‘n’ image of Uncle Jess.

We are shaped by that which we admire most, and by the people we love most.

Whom do you love and admire?
   What qualities draw you to them?
      And how can you bring more people like that into your life?

-- Steve Goodier

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Lawrence said...

"And how can you bring more people like that into your life?"

This says it all, Steve. Bringing the people into our lives that make up who we want to be ourselves, is truly when we can be the people we know deep down, that we are.

Touching as always. I wish I could have an Uncle Jess response to every little thing I get mad at my kids about.

I once walked into the bathroom to find what was about to be a - I'll just say a messy situation, and I raised my voice to a level that obviously from my youngest's response, sounded like I was very angry. I was actually just afraid that she was about to do something that wasn't going to be pretty and underneath my hysterical response, I missed her saying 'Daddy! I did it all by myself.'

I cried. I hugged her and said I was so sorry and that I wasn't really mad. I broke her little heart.

I needed an Uncle Jessie response.

It's been awhile since I have visited your site Steve and now I remember more than ever through your words, how One Word - One Story, can really change a life.

Steve Goodier said...

Thanks for the kudos, Lawrence, I appreciate it. And keep visiting!