Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Look First in the Mirror

On Sunday afternoon after church, while Grandma was getting Sunday dinner ready it was Grandpa's ritual to take a short nap in his rocker on the front porch of their farmhouse.  One particular Spring Sunday ten year old Johnny had a stroke of mischievous genius.

He walked out to the pasture where Grandpa's dairy cows were grazing and looked for a fresh cow pie.  Taking a stick, he got the end of the stick sufficiently covered and gingerly walked toward the front porch and his napping grandfather.

Grandpa had a healthy mustache.  He told Johnny it was his "cookie duster".  He was also a heavy sleeper, which was in Johnny's favor.  Making sure no adults in the house saw him, he quietly crept up the steps and on to the porch.  With the stick he carefully smeared fresh cow manure on Grandpa's mustache.  Then as quickly as he was quiet, he got off the porch and hid behind the tractor to watch what happened next.

It only took a couple of snoring breaths before the old man's olfactory senses opened his eyes and furrowed his brow.  The squint of his eyes told Johnny that the pungent stench had Grandpa concerned.  As a farmer he was most familiar with the smells of the farm.  But this was stronger than anything he had ever experienced.

He muttered just loud enough for Johnny to hear, "Something around here stinks!".  And rising from the rocker he went on a search to find the source.  First, he went into the house.  Instead of the smell of frying chicken and baking biscuits, he smelled the manure.  "The house stinks!", he told himself.

Grandma was too busy getting the apple pie ready for the oven to notice him walking up behind her in the kitchen.  He had done this hundreds of times over their long marriage, usually to give her a quick peck on the back of her neck.  But this time as he approached her he noted the smell was just as strong.  "She stinks!".  Wisely he didn't speak the words, but just thought them.

Walking out the back door he made his way to the barn, which was filled with sweet, fresh hay.  "The barn stinks!"  Into the hen house, which usually had it's own distinctive smell he went.  But this time the smell was not the same and much stronger.  "The chickens stink!"  The smokehouse, where hams hung curing didn't have that smoky smell that makes your mouth water.  "The smokehouse stinks!".  On and on he went  into every outbuilding and corner of his barnyard.  He couldn't escape that smell no matter where he was.  Grandma's rose garden, the horse stalls, the bee hives.  Even the field planted with winter wheat ready for harvest.

Exasperated Grandpa said loud enough for all to hear, "The whole world stinks!".

Johnny couldn't hold back his laughter.  He knew the truth.  It wasn't the rest of the world that smelled so bad.  It was Grandpa.  He just couldn't see it.

Often, when life doesn't pan out like we think it should, especially if we find it unpleasant, disagreeable or uncomfortable we can quickly come to the conclusion that everyone else is in the wrong and it's someone else's fault, when in reality the problem is our own.  Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing the source of the stench we can come to the conclusion that everyone else is the problem when the problem is as clear as the mustache on Grandpa's face.

Accepting personal responsibility rather than seeking blame is often. a sign we've started at the right place.  It's a lesson we all need to learn.  Crusty manure gets hard to clean off.   But once it is discovered and cleaned, the rest of the world certainly does smell better.

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