Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Trying to Swallow Something That Won't Go Down

Trying to Swallow Something That Won't Go Down

In her first novel in the best-selling Mitford series, At Home in Mitford, Jan Karon regales her readers with witty and touching stories in the life of a single Episcopal priest in a small town.

One day he went for lunch at the home of an elderly parishioner, Miss Sadie, who lived on a hilltop which gave a commanding view of Mitford. As they sat on the porch and looked down at the toy-like village below the priest said to Miss Sadie: "Wouldn't it be marvelous if life could be as perfect as it looks from your porch?"

Miss Sadie reflected on that for a moment and said she had thought about that many times, and then she said: "When Hoppy's wife lay dying, I often looked down at his house and thought, we never, ever know what heartache lives under those rooftops." She went on to say: "I heard a Mississippi preacher say that everybody is trying to swallow something that won't go down."

What a profound insight into the reality of the lives of people who live all around us! This is an insight not often found in the young and inexperienced. Truth is, not many people ever really understand that, but it is something more likely to dawn on those who have gray hair, a few wrinkles, and perceptive minds.

The first sentence in the great book by Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled, is: "Life is difficult." Most of the people we see every day seem to have their lives in manageable units. Little do we know about what lies behind that placid appearance. If by some magical process we could see behind the facade of those around us, it would change our attitude toward them.

If we could understand that everybody is "trying to swallow something that won't go down", it would cause us to speak about and to treat them in a gentler and kinder manner. We would begin to look upon the people we think we know so well with "soft eyes".

Perhaps you have tried to swallow something that would not go down. Perhaps you are still trying to swallow something that will not go down. What to do?? Let me tell you a story.

There was a young man in rural Conecuh County, Alabama, who was invited to a dinner party at the home of a rather affluent family in Evergreen - the county seat. He was not well trained in table manners, but he decided to watch the person across the table to determine which fork to use and how to hold it. He was doing fine until coffee was served. It did not appear to be hot, but it was! He took a big swallow and it was burning hot. He spat the coffee back into the cup. Every head turned to look at him. He finally said to the shocked guests: "There are some people who would have been fool enough to swallow that."

There are times in life in which we should spit out something that is too hot to swallow, with embarrassingly poor taste rather than to swallow it. We all know people who have politely swallowed something that should have been spit out and it is eating them up inside. In fact we may be people who have made that mistake.

You do not have to choke or burn when you have bitten off something too big to swallow or too hot to handle. Just admit you have made a mistake and spit it out! You will get over the embarassment, but you may never get over swallowing it.