Words can hurt us

Published 9:16 am Saturday, October 22, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

The old adage first appeared in an American publication in 1862. Generally, we have gone along with the declaration that sticks and stones can be “bone-breakers.” That words are skating by without harmful effects, however, hasn’t been true for decades–maybe never. When they first saw the light of day, words weren’t assaulting us so often and in so many ways as they are currently.

Yep, words–in addition to sticks and stones–pack powerful punches, too. How about the current exchanges by presidential candidates? I won’t go there, given that one of the purposes of this column is to elicit smiles. There’s little to smile about these days when political fires are stoked by words often poorly chosen, but boldly expressed. (Many politicians’ words, in fact, were whispered–or deleted–not so long ago.)

At least until the national election is history, I heartily recommend looking for “humor nuggets.” Nowadays, we have to dig deeper for them. We will do well to keep sharp eyes out–even for messages on old t-shirts, and on pages of books so dusty, dust covers gave up on them decades ago. Today, I am here to help.

Two t-shirt messages worthy of note were spotted during a pleasurable walk recently in the Caribbean. (Better stated, it was a deck walk on Carnival Cruise Line’s Freedom.) One was worn by a veteran husband who might rather have chosen “sleeping in,” but he walked anyway. He might even have “seconded the motion” when his wife announced how they’d start the day. The message on his shirt? “We don’t need Google. My wife knows everything.”

Another t-shirt was a “puzzler” for me and others. Walkers halted, noting “La–a” on her shirt. She dared anyone to pronounce her name correctly. I–and others—tried; we all failed.

“LaDASHa,” she claimed

   I always take books along to read on cruises. One included this time was I Feel Better All Over Than I Do Anywhere Else. One of four books authored by Dr. Randall O’Brien, it is a compendium of experiences and stories–mostly the former. He’s a valued friend who has pretty much “done it all” and is still at it. Dr. O’Brien has more degrees than he has walls for, and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. Revered president of Carson-Newman University in Tennessee, he’s one of but few active presidents who remembers Absorbine Sr.

He’s so much more. A husband, father and multi-faceted leader, he has a smile almost as wide as the state he lives in. And this proud country boy from Mississippi has made many proud.

Did I mention he also is one of the most courageous people I’ve known in “all my put together”? And I have proof.

In the book cited earlier, he admitted a gaffe many husbands would have tried to stifle, and certainly never/never/never included among memoirs. (Except maybe for family members.)

Perhaps he deliberated for a time, since it is the next-to-last vignette on the next-to-last page.

It is entitled “What’s Cookin’?”

He and Kay now are in their fifth decade of marriage. Randall wrote of arriving home for dinner one evening during the first month following their wedding ceremony in 1975. She met him at the door, tears flowing. “Oh, honey,” she said, “The dog ate the meatloaf I cooked for supper.”

“I held her tight,” he said. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Don’t worry, honey. I’ll buy you another dog.”

A self-described “redneck country boy,” Randall wrote that he “blew it–bad, bad, bad.” Yep, he’s a survivor, but one who always wants to help out when he can. Randall has a scripture suggestion for new hubbies whose marriages may not be quite so solid: “Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives.” (Proverbs 13:3a).


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com