"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Sunday, March 14, 2010


An old friend that I went to grade school and high school with stopped by to see my mom and dad the other day. We were neighbors with his family back then, and he still has a home on his folks’ old property. My parents and the old friend had a good visit and at some point the conversation turned to some of the other kids that he and I had gone to high school with. My old friend (whom I will call “Jesse”) commented how one of the smartest boys in our class ended up being a janitor. The conversation went to the subject of intelligence in school not always paying off. When my mom was telling me about the visit and conversation - though my mom didn’t know - I knew exactly who my old classmate meant. At our ten year high school reunion, the planning committee had sent out little questionnaires asking about our lives so others would know where our lives had taken us since high school. I remembered that this A-student classmate had answered “janitor” on the question asking about his current occupation.

I found this so funny to hear all these years later – we are well past the 35 year mark now for class reunions! But I remember just before our tenth reunion I had run into this particular classmate that claimed to be a janitor. He was with his wife and another couple that had married after high school. They each told me how they had thought no one would really take that little questionnaire seriously, so they made up occupations from which they thought everyone would get a chuckle. The smartest kid in the class picked "janitor”. One of the gals (his close friend) chose “author” as her supposed occupation. When I quite coincidently ran into them, I had believed the questionnaire just like my old neighbor had and I innocently asked the smart one, “So I read you’re a janitor now…is that what you were doing to put yourself through college?” I just knew this guy had to have gone on to higher education, but I honestly believed the janitor story. I could see by his response however, that he was genuinely sorry for playing the little game they had played with the questions they answered. “We didn’t think anyone would take it seriously! We didn’t even think people would really fill it out,” he explained. I got a chuckle out of that and was glad to know that I now knew the truth. But all these years later, “Jesse” did not. All these years later, “Jesse” still only knew about the janitor.

The incident really made me stop to think about how important truth is, and how easily it can be misconstrued…. just how fragile truth really can be. It made me think about another incident in my own life. Not something terribly important but something that has always bothered me just the same. It is a fairly recent incident, but something that should have been corrected immediately.

I had some friends over to our house one day for a visit. I have a photo of my husband and me on our wedding day hanging on our fireplace. In the same frame just below our wedding picture is a photo of our son, when he was a toddler. My friends commented on the photo as I was doing something else in the kitchen. I heard the question but quickly responded. “Oh, Rick’s wedding photo.” I don’t know why I didn’t say our wedding photo. I was in a bit of a hurry; and I guess not really paying too much attention. Somehow however, my company interpreted my comment to mean Rick and his ex-wife. Why didn’t they recognize me? Well, several years, lots of pounds and wrinkles later…I guess they just didn’t. I didn’t think a thing about it at the time, but then later some strange questions kept coming up. Not just from them, but from others in the same circle of friends that we shared. For example: “Is Matthew your biological son?” Huh? I thought. Where did that come from? Then someone asked me if I had a picture of Rick’s ex-wife hanging in my house. Ok. I let that one go by, too. But then I started thinking about some of these questions and it hit me what must have happened. Obviously there was some sort of conversation going around this group of friends.

Oh boy! How do I explain this one after this much time has gone by? How do I even bring it up again? It really felt awkward. I didn’t want my friends to think I had heard gossip and was accusing them of that. I knew better (on their part, anyway). But there is that fragile "truth" again, that can be damaged so easily, even if it is unintentionally. I never explained it; and it still bothers me just a bit that friends think I might have a wedding picture of my husbands ex hanging in my living room. Who would have thought? Don’t they know me better than that? Oh well, I guess not. But it all really does make me want to be so careful with the truth.

I don’t blame “Jesse” for believing what he did. That is not where the blame lies. There is truth in the fact that not everyone that does well in school, will do well in life. What he read did become true in his eyes, because that is what he had been told. I guess I don’t blame my friends for thinking what they thought. I shouldn’t have been so careless with my answer when they asked me about the photo. But it is sure a lesson in how precious truth is. Correcting it when it’s wrong, and being careful to always state the truth in the first place.

Incidents like these really make one stop to think about so many things. We often hear the expression "simple truth". If anything, truth is not simple. These are just a couple very minor incidents in the whole scheme of things. But when you think about history, and families and our jury system and faith - and on and on and on the list goes; truth is huge. The older I get, I guess the more I think about it. I’ve come to believe, it isn’t really so hard finding truth; but it is really difficult and important to keep it.


"A lie repeated often enough becomes truth."
~ Lenin

The first and last thing that is required of genius is love of truth."

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