Pastor Jim Jackson
Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church
Mama had some interesting use of words for her young son. Sometimes when she would ask me to do something, I would reply, “What for?” This is how she replied: “Cat fur to make kitten britches. You want to buy a pair”? Of course, that told me nothing about that which I was asking. And perhaps that was just what she wanted.
Then sometimes when she and Dad were going somewhere by themselves, I would inquire: “Where are you going?” Her response: “Going to see a man about a dog.” I thought it might have meant they were going to surprise me with a puppy. It never happened. So there you go, sometimes adults have business they want to keep for themselves. But I’m sure Mom and Dad never were doing anything evil, or even unkind. They weren’t those kind of people.
At least, I have come to believe children’s ears don’t need to hear everything or know everything about which adults are talking, especially when it’s in hushed tones. Once I heard someone remark: “Little pitchers have big ears.” For sure, there are some things children’s ears don’t need to hear—profanity, character assignation, reckless gossip, and lies are just a few.
Clarity, honesty, and kindness go a long way when communicating with children, and with adults as well. It’s such an easy thing to offend with words. And Jesus gave us a caution: “It is impossible but that offenses will come, but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”
Nonetheless, Mom and Dad did communicate clearly when addressing me, so clearly that they came to speak of themselves as “Frank and Earnest.” In that, I’m confident my parents had it right, for Jesus one said: “Let your communication be, Yea yea, Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” That’s simple, clear speech. Clearly I understood when they said yes and no and they meant no with no sass back on my part—forget kitten britches and talking to a man about a dog.