Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Sticks and Stones

There's no place to hide.

I settled into my recliner with my coffee Saturday morning to watch "College GameDay" on ESPN.  I might not watch many actual games in the course of an autumn Saturday but I enjoy listening to Desmond, Chris, Lee, Kirk and Company as they preview the coming attractions.  All the elements of great storytelling are on display: The price of hubris, the rewards of persistence, the player or coach who overcame a terrible injury or illness or who lost a loved one to same, the relationship between a team and its steadfast fans.

But the lead story Saturday wasn't inspiring or thought-provoking or even mildly entertaining.  Instead it was an unwelcome reminder that we're becoming a nation of potty-mouths.

Let me introduce you to our latest exhibit: Jameis Winston, Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles. Mr. Winston was suspended for his team's game against Clemson University on Saturday because a few days earlier he jumped up on a table on campus and said a bad thing.  A very bad thing.  Something so bad I can't even figure out how to allude to it without feeling dirty.  If you're a curious soul like me you can consult Mr. Google for the details.

I was disgusted by Mr. Winston's comments, but I was flabbergasted when the ESPN pundits said the offensive statement is found in a viral video that's making the rounds on college campuses.  Oh, and it wouldn't have been so bad if he had confined his verbal trash to the locker room, among his "brothers."  Really, college students talk like this all the time.

Lord, have mercy.

As this story percolated in my brain I remembered an encounter Mr. Pettit and I witnessed at a local Target store about a month ago.  We were studying handheld carpet cleaners (yes, our lives are that exciting) when a little girl, about 5 years old, appeared at the end of a nearby aisle, stopped, then walked back the way she came.

A few moments later we heard a woman's voice:  "What the hell's wrong with you?  It's like you're on speed.  Jesus!"  The woman and little girl moved on to another aisle as Mr. Pettit and I stared at each other in stunned silence.

The way her rebuke was delivered was as shocking to us as the words themselves.  We did not hear the tired, exasperated, frustrated voice of an adult pushed to her limits by a willful child.  Had we concluded this woman was having a horrendous day we would not have condoned her harsh statement but we would have understood its origin, much as we understand the crimes of passion that fill the news.

Instead her voice was cold, devoid of emotion, leading us to believe she serves up cruel words to this little girl on a regular basis, maybe every day, maybe all day.  How can we expect this child to grow up healthy and whole on such a diet?

In the rush to express ourselves, to be "real," many seem to have forgotten that words have power.  I remember watching the nightly news during the height of the Vietnam War---I was a news junkie even as a child---and after a while I became desensitized to the casualty reports every night.  The numbers stopped representing people and were merely a tally, just like a board game.

The words we choose seep into our subconscious, whether we're busy building others up or tearing them down.  Using language that demeans others inflicts immediate damage and in the long term desensitizes us to the humanity of our fellow citizens.   I get the impression we're not supposed to pass judgment on anything anymore, since none of us is without flaws.  But our kindergarten teachers were right: Using bad words is a bad thing.

This column has left me a bit depressed, so I'll close with a verse from the Bible about the proper use of language:

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Proverbs 16:24

Waiting for Rain

Here Comes the Sun