A beautiful piece of driftwood in my living room displays Emerson’s saying for all to see. During the numerous years since discovering this priceless quote, I learn over and over again that it can be applied to almost every area of life, both in how I view others and in how others view me.
When my 2nd grader promised he was brushing his teeth after lunch at school, I pulled the still-sealed toothbrush container out of my son’s backpack and questioned him with my eyes one last time. He burst into tears and begged forgiveness for lying, which, of course, prompted a family discussion about telling the truth all the time. The very next day he brought home a birthday party invitation and said he’d rather not go. I called the birthday boy’s mother to inform her that we had plans that weekend – we didn’t. Hearing me tell that lie about our unavailability for the party spoke louder to my 7-year-old son than all my words encouraging him to always tell the truth, no matter what.
With little contact from my dad during my first twenty years and after moving his new family to the very town I lived in, he decided to be part of my life. Dad now has “family day” two or three times a year, which includes my half and step sisters’ families. I am never invited unless the other sisters are invited, too. Every time we talk on the phone, he says he wants to see me and my boys more often and he’d love it if we came by more often, always managing to slide in the comment, “I sure wish you’d call some time.” Yet, I call him as often as he calls me. While my dad says he wants to spend more time with me and my family, his actions say something different.
When we first joined the church in our new town, there were many who requested we volunteer for this or that or the other, but one older couple showed me the person I want to be. They’ve never boasted about their accomplishments or attempted to enlist me in their works, yet over the past year and from sources other than this couple, I’ve learned of all they do for our community. They began the recycling program in our town, they help collect for the local food bank, and they go on a mission trip every year. They’ve shown me that quiet service inspires action more than verbal requests ever could.
Emerson’s words ring true in a variety of situations in life. The best, the most interesting, and the most poignant stories we tell in books and songs, to friends, and around the dinner table relay what people do, rarely what they say. So with all the things I do on a daily basis, I must consistently ask myself: Are my actions telling others what I want them to hear?
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