Way back before the invention of the printing press, I was a young father. As many young fathers often do, I invented some bedtime stories for my young children. While I am not much of a bedtime story inventor, I did come up with a few that both my daughter and son liked, and isn’t that what matters?
So, anyway, their favorite (and mine) was a series of three stories with Terry Tyrannosaurus as the hero. Terry lived before the invention of time and so we don’t know when he lived, we just know he did. His dad’s name was Rex, does that help? Now, I tried to create a story that had a meaning, a message, maybe even a moral! Heaven forbid! In my mind, the best of the batch was “Terry and the Garble Bush”.
First, the kids needed to know what “garble” meant. I am sure you know. But just in case, it means mixed up, muddled, jumbled, confused, distorted, etc. Impossible to understand. The bush? It comes later.
In brief, the story told of Terry and his friends who met a creature they simply could not understand, and they laughed at that creature, and they made fun of him/her. They made that poor thing feel real bad. Later, Terry came across a mysterious bush — The Garble Bush, of course. The bush had beautiful, delicious berries and Terry tried one…boy! were they good, yum. But one wasn’t enough, and Terry ate a lot! Little did Terry know that the berry of the Garble Bush had powers to alter speech! Before long, Terry’s voice came out jumbled, muddled, distorted, etc., in other words, garbled!
Skip to the end of the story: Terry finds out what it is like to be made fun of, even by his friends, because of the way he talked and it made him feel real bad. Fortunately, the effect of the berries eventually wears off…but Terry is left with an idea. A really good idea. Maybe talking funny isn’t funny at all. Maybe it is important to try to understand what is being said and who is saying it.
Okay, that is the story. Kids liked it. However, how many of us judge on the basis of crazy, superficial, unimportant matters, such as speech, color of skin, religion, who we love, politics, etc.? How many of us would be changed if we could walk in their shoes, in their skin, in their beliefs, for just a short period? What would we learn if we spent real quality time with someone we couldn’t quite relate to?
Heifer International recently challenged us to “live below the poverty level” for just five days. That translates to $1.50 per day, per person! Think about that! $1.50 for all you eat and drink each day for five days. How hard could that be? I watched an interview this morning on this very topic. Many people are accepting the challenge, including whole families. The task is truly a challenge. Those who have completed the five days were glad to get back to “real lives”! The problem is for the millions who are living below the poverty level there is no escaping “back to”. Poverty is always there, day after day, grinding and demeaning of the human spirit.
How does taking up the challenge translate to our role as human beings? How would our experience change our perspective, our relationship with others, with our sense of compassion? How would our experience inform our political position on, say, minimum wage, unemployment benefits, school lunch programs, food stamps, Meals on Wheels, etc.?
I have not lost my faith in the human spirit, nor my belief that such an experience would change minds and hearts. For those of us who are comfortable, taking up this challenge is a scary proposition. But, think of it as enriching your life…then enriching others.
For what it is worth.