In an old country churchyard in Hatfield, Massachusetts, stands a drab, gray slate from 1771. The faint markings read:
Beneath this stone, a lump of clay, lies Arabella Young, who on the twenty-fourth of May, began to hold her tongue.
For most of us, at any and every age, the tongue is a force to be reckoned with. We can engage without thinking and sometimes regret it. I’ve done this more times than the Patriots have made it to the Superbowl and often miss that golden opportunity to keep my mouth shut. Though the tongue is small it is powerful. With it we can build up, tear up, or crack up. And sometimes, we can accomplish all three!
It’s never nice to have fun at someone else’s expense. It’s not something that I would knowingly do, but sometimes we or the people around us can walk right into things.
For example, about 20 years ago I went to my 20th High School Reunion. It was at a park in Whippany, New Jersey and most of us that went had our spouses and children with us. It really was fun to talk to old classmates and see them with their young families.
In case you don’t know, there are a lot of Italians in New Jersey. In fact, there were a lot of Italians in my graduating class. So, while perusing the snacks at this particular reunion, I wasn’t surprised to meet up with a fellow Italian. I asked her if she was there with her family and she happily and proudly pointed out her husband and children. They were a very beautiful, very Italian family.
Before I could point out my own beautiful, Asian family, she began to share with me her thoughts and feelings. She’d married an Italian because she felt strongly that people should marry within their own culture. (I know, I should have stopped her.) She felt that marrying within your own culture avoided confusion for the children and promoted overall harmony for the families. It was very important to her. Can I even begin to express how thrilled I was that, for once, it wasn’t me getting myself in trouble?
When she finished, she asked me if I was married. I told her I was. She asked if my family was with me. I told her they were. She asked which ones they were. I pointed them out and said, “Do you see that Asian man over there and the three kids that look nothing like me? They’re mine.” Her eyes spoke volumes. She covered her mouth and muffled an apology. I told her none was necessary. And I laughed. I shared with her some of my experiences marrying outside of my cultural background and we both laughed. Because when all is said and done, it’s really not that big a deal.
“As you go through life you are going to have many opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of them all.” ~ Author Unknown