Category Archives: That’s Life

I Know Nothing

When I was a child, I knew some things: I knew I needed to do my homework, to wash my hands after going to the bathroom, to wear a coat in the winter, and to move to the side of the road when a car was coming. I had most of the information I needed.

Today I know nothing because I have too much information. Just when I think I’ve found an immutable truth, some authority labels that truth a lie and purports a totally different truth.

Take the egg for example. When I was a child, people ate eggs often: scrambled, fried, and boiled. We ate them as deviled eggs and in egg salad sandwiches. We dyed and decorated them at Easter and ate the ones that didn’t get smashed in the hiding and finding process. We ate eggs without thinking about it.

Then we learned that eggs contained cholesterol which contributed to heart disease. Experts urged us to eat no more than one egg per week. We complied.

Then a few years ago scientists announced that eating eggs does not endanger one’s health. In fact, the egg may be nature’s perfect food, they said.

I Googled the question: Are eggs good or bad for your health? In 0.66 seconds, I was given access to 12,000,000 answers. I couldn’t read all of them, but I read a few and got differing answers. Which of the answers was the right one?

A few years ago as I made sugar water for my hummingbird feeder, I debated on whether or not to put red food coloring into it. One expert told me that if female hummingbirds consumed red food coloring, their eggs would not hatch. Another expert promised that food coloring would do no harm. Again, I turned to Google and asked the question: Is red food coloring harmful to hummingbirds? This time I received 400,000 answers in 0.88 seconds. Which answer was the correct one?

Should I feed a fever and starve a cold or feed a cold and starve a fever? 367,000 answers in 0.89 seconds.

Do we lose half of our body heat in the winter when we go outside with our heads uncovered? 717,000 answers in 1.2 seconds.

Should fresh tomatoes be refrigerated? 1,540,000 answers in 0.62 seconds.

Are the pale yellow flowers that bloom around Easter called jonquils or daffodils? 203,000 answers in 1.19 seconds.

With this abundance of information at my fingertips, I still don’t know whether or not to eat eggs regularly, or if putting food coloring into my hummingbirds’ sugar water is okay. I don’t know whether to eat when I have a cold or when I have a fever, and I have no idea whether or not I lose half of my body heat in the winter if I go outside with my head uncovered.

I do not put fresh tomatoes into the refrigerator because that is just wrong, regardless of what the experts say.  And I call Easter flowers jonquils one day and daffodils the next.

In all my research, I learned nothing.

A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but too much knowledge is useless.

 

Debts

I grew up in a small rural community in North Arkansas in the 1950s and 60s. In 1966 my parents bought a set of World Book Encyclopedia. I remember looking in Volume A of the set and finding the population listings for cities and towns in Arkansas. Our own little community was listed as having about 20 residents. My parents, siblings, and I made up six of those.

My dad owned the local grocery store, and on Saturdays and during summer months, I helped him in the store. I filled orders; dusted and cleaned; ran the loud, clanging cash register; and occasionally pumped gas.

Often a man walked in and handed me a grocery list his wife had sent and asked me to fill it. I soon knew what brand of coffee and laundry detergent many of our local families used. Occasionally he said, “Add a dollar’s worth of gas to that.”

I collected the requested items, wrote down the purchases in a small credit booklet using carbon paper to make a copy for the store, sacked the items, dropped in the customer’s copy of the receipt, pumped the gas, and moved on to the next customer. Our clientele appreciated my dad’s “buy now, pay later” policy, and most of them honored the “pay later” part.

We understood the meaning of community. We celebrated the good times together and helped out during the bad. When one of our townsfolk died, local men dug the grave with their own shovels, even in deep winter when the ground was frozen. Everyone from miles around attended the funeral, women showering the family with pies, cakes, casseroles, hams, and pans of homemade yeast rolls.

After a death, my dad often shook his head sadly and said to me, “Well, Mr. So-and-So has paid his debts and gone on.” Then occasionally, with a wink, he added, “Well, at least he has gone on,” indicating that the man had died leaving debts unpaid at our store.

I learned early that some debts never get paid.

I sometimes wonder why God planted me where He did, within the confines of a loving, store-owning family on a tiny dot of a town in northern Arkansas in the middle of the Twentieth Century. But I was planted there, and I grew and matured and eventually moved into the adult population and out of northern Arkansas.

I owe much to the people who shared the world I inhabited as a child. They taught me the difference between right and wrong and showed me we all need each other. The values of honesty, hard work, cooperation, and general courtesy they modeled rubbed off on me and have stood me well. Most of these people are now gone, and for what they taught me, I owe them a debt I cannot repay.

Never underestimate your influence on your world.

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