Years ago, when the first day of school rolled around as it invariably does, a brand-new group of bright-eyed students sat in their seats waiting for me to start the day. As we filled out the million forms required each year, I strolled about the room answering questions when I could. One young lady said to me as I approached her desk, “My mama says she used to know you, that you two went to school together in Hazlehurst.”
“That’s entirely possible,” I smiled at her. “I went to school in Hazlehurst. What’s your mama’s name?”
“Doris Smith. She said you used to be real smart,” the student replied.
How exactly do you respond to that kind of compliment? Do you say, “Well, honey child, I still am”? How about “Yes, but all my intelligence disappeared back in 1966 when I graduated from high school”? I wasn’t sure, so I just smiled and asked her to say hello to her mama for me.
Recently a relative of ours was visiting. He stopped before the bookcase and examined the picture of me when I was a freshman at the University of Georgia.
“You know, Larry,” he said, “Aunt Mae used to be a beautiful woman—really hot in today’s slang.”
Larry, nice guy that he is, said, “Well, I happen to think she still is.”
Long ago I worked with a beautiful dark-haired teacher who was not only an amazing teacher but an amazing person. One day as we were eating lunch in the teachers’ work room, she said she had gone shopping the day before and a sales lady gave her a most unusual compliment.
“You know, ma’am, you’d be a really beautiful lady if you’d go get that gap between your front teeth fixed. They can do amazing thing with dentistry these days.
Yesterday in church I was talking to a friend before we started singing. He’s a special friend of mine and often compliments me on my writing. He said to me, “I don’t understand how you write the way you do.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, genuinely puzzled.
“Well,” he replied, “you can take the least little thing and turn it into an article I really enjoy and stay with right from the first sentence to the last one. How do you do that? Can you explain that to me?”
I couldn’t explain. I don’t know the answer, but I do appreciate the compliment to my writing abilities, Mr. Jimmy. I’m glad you enjoy them; else I’d be wasting my time. Please keep reading, and I’ll try to dig up some substance every now and then.
It could be that we’re talking about the same quality that my middle child had for math. Once we were driving over the big bridge on I-95 that goes through Jacksonville, Florida. If you’ve ever driven over it, you’ll know the one I’m talking about. Anyway, Larry was driving, I sat in the passenger seat, and our 2 (at the time) boys were in the back. Suddenly, 5-year-old Jakey piped up, “Mama, is 35 forty-three per cent of 80?”
I glanced over at Larry, who raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
“I really don’t know, baby boy,” I answered, reaching in my purse for my calculator. “Just a minute and I’ll tell you.”
“You’re very close to right,” I answered, “It’s 34.4, but how did you know that?”
“I just did it in my head,” he said. “I don’t know how my head works.”
I understood exactly what he meant. That’s the way I write. I don’t have the extreme talent for it that my Jakey had for math, but I enjoy what I do have.
My daddy always told us to be careful what we said to people. He said his mother told him about two ladies she knew who went to visit their friend Sally, whose daughter was on the floor drawing a picture. She appeared to be far too young to be in school. When Sally left the room, one lady said to the other, “You know, she’s not very p-r-e-t-t-y, is she?”
The child replied, “No, but I’m really s-m-a-r-t.”
It wouldn’t hurt any of us too much to stop and think before we engage our mouths; for some of us, that’s pretty rare though.
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