Cole and I went shopping at Walmart. As we walked toward the door, I saw her. She was obviously in poor health.
Several factors contributed to my assessment, one of them being she was hunched over a shopping cart, using it as a support as she walked. Her every step seemed to be a struggle.
I wasn’t the only one who saw her. From the corner of my eye, I saw Cole watching her, too.
I dropped my hand onto his shoulder. He probably thought I was showing him some paternal affection, but what I was doing was more pragmatic. I was positioning my hand to cover his mouth in case what I thought was about to happen actually happened.
Nearly a year ago, I wrote about Cole making a loud exclamation about a woman’s green-dyed hair. That woman was OK with Cole’s observation about her appearance, but this case was different. I didn’t want this lady’s feelings to be hurt should Cole say something about her.
Sure enough, as soon as we got past the woman, Cole said, “Daddy! What’s wrong with that woman?”
Thankfully, I’d placed my hand over his mouth in time. All that came out was, “Daddy! What’s mmf mmf mmf mm-mmff?”
At the same time I said, “Wow! Look at that!” and pointed toward a claw game in the corner filled with stuffed animals.
His attention sufficiently diverted, I ushered him inside. As we gathered our purchases, I talked to him about how our words can sometimes hurt people. And we have to be careful about what we say, when we say it and how we say it.
I know it never entered Cole’s mind what he said could have hurt that woman’s feelings. As a child, he was curious about her condition. Simple. Honest. Innocent.
Not all people are like that, though. Sometimes people speak out of spite. They use words designed to hurt. They couldn’t care less if what they say hurts the person they’re saying it about. Maybe this has happened to you. If it has, you’re in good company.
It happened to Jesus on the day he was crucified (Matthew 27:38-44). What was his response? He forgave them for the way they mistreated him (Luke 23:34). In doing so, he set an example for us to follow.
Has someone said something hurtful to you or about you? Forgive them. It won’t be easy, but in doing so, you’ll be responding just like Jesus did.
The Rev. Parrish Myers is a local minister living in Braselton. His column appears biweekly in Sunday Life and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.