I know that I have a sharp tongue, which is why I have to make a special effort to keep it under control. My angry letters to erring commercial institutions are legend in our family. Just last month, I let Volkswagen have it, and as a result, after several visits to the dealer, my car is finally repaired. Last year when an orchestra member criticized Nicodemus for not doing something he had in fact done, I wrote her an e-mail which I think shriveled her right up. She hides when she sees me coming.
So this morning when a driver yelled at me in the parking lot, I was careful to give a soft answer. “Why don’t you park it right?” he screamed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You’re half way into my parking bay,” he said, getting into his ugly truck, which was a full four feet away from my car.
“I’ll back up,” I said meekly, and then tried to do so with my hand brake on, I was that rattled. He gave me a dirty look and drove off. I would like to think that, as Stephen Gaskin once advised, that I had taken a bit of meanness out of the world, but I am not that good, and I stewed over the scene for a while.
I remember the last time I ever hit a child of mine (for hitting his brother). I could see my handprint on his sweet face, and I told myself that I would never, ever lose my temper with the children again.
Nicodemus, who can be bitingly sarcastic, can also be a master of the soft answer which turneth away wrath. When someone remarked, thirteen or fourteen years ago, that he didn’t know why people our age bothered to get married, Nicodemus replied “Well, we’re rather conventional.” Anyone who knows us knows better, but the sarcastic man was left speechless.
Once when he was substitute-teaching at a local elementary school, a little girl tugged at his jacket and complained that so-and-so had pushed her or taken her pencil. “Forgive him,” Nicodemus said. I don’t know if she knew what that meant, but I imagine she still remembers it.