Maybe I was just in a rather jocular mood that day. After all, I was surrounded by some of my buddies, and we were in the midst of a round of common horseplay, which was typical for us. If that wasn’t enough, we had just left the scene of a structure fire, which would boost the spirits of any firefighter—that’s what we lived for. But then again, my cheerfulness may have been brought about because I had successfully persuaded my captain to stop by the local Dairy Queen on our way back to the firehouse. How could that not bring a smile to a dirty and sweaty face? Yes, I as I gazed up at the sign portraying a little Eskimo holding up a soft-serve ice cream cone, I couldn’t help but allow a bit of a grin to spread across my face, because I knew that I was only minutes away from having a similar culinary delight before me, ready for me to delve into its succulent sweetness. Note: If you haven’t guessed by now, I like ice cream.
It was out of this tranquil fantasy that I was jerked back to reality by the realization that someone was speaking to me. “What about you, baby?” she inquired. As I snapped my mind back to the here-and-now, I glanced over to notice my buddies laughing. My sight then turned to the person speaking to me. Once again, she repeated, “Yo, baby!” Still not quite understanding what was transpiring, I responded to the woman, “Excuse me?” With a sense of exasperation she once again offered up her proposal, “I said, I’ll do anything you want for twenty dollars.” That’s when it hit me, and I realized that the section of Charlotte we were in was well known area for, uhmm…working women. At first I was shocked to have been approached like this, in broad daylight, and in front of an ice cream parlor. My buddies were all laughing, after having turned down her offer. Finally, as I began to fall right in line with all of her other rejections, I uttered the first words that came to mind, “Why, sure, darling! I have been looking for somebody like you. I have got this old out-building behind my house, and it is in need of someone to paint it. Twenty dollars sounds like a good deal to me!” My compadres all burst out with laughter, but the lady evidently was not so amused. She began a torrent of words and phrases that make me blush still. As she stormed off, we still could hear her yelling at us and threatening to call the police on us (yes, really). Finally, as I stepped up to order my ice cream cone, I looked back and muttered, “She said she’d do anything.”
It’s only after some twenty years of reflection that I can glean some biblical truth from this encounter. Just a couple of days ago, I instantly remembered this encounter as I was reading Matthew’s gospel. The section I was reading was from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and he uttered these words, “And don’t say anything you don’t mean.” (Matthew 5:33a). Why did that happenstance come to mind? I am not sure, but it may have had something to do with me reading it as translated in The Message this time. But anyway, I remembered it and thought to myself, “I wonder how many times I say something rather vague.” Probably many people would say that about me. Too many times I am not clear enough with what I say, and all I do is cause myself and others to become confused and frustrated.
So, I will try to do better and be a bit clearer in what I say. Just as important, I will need to remember, many others have the same affliction and I need to ask for clarity. But, she really did say she would do anything.