Words Don't Make Gravy

by Rev. J. Vance Eastridge, 1998

The day is at its best at dawn.

Draped in darkness, the world about has no form. Whatever exists is there only by imagination or memory. Then, sunlight breaks through. It begins with muted shapes slowly taking form and gradually molding into trees and shrubs and familiar objects. Like a camera print developing, the colors grow more vivid and the forms gradually emerge to full maturity. The world is awake.

Sometime between the two, I cook breakfast. It's a joy I have claimed for myself all my adult years. Not so much the pleasure of cooking as the pleasure of filling my family's nostrils with the aroma of their favorite foods as they awaken to a new beginning, and then sitting down and eating together.

So it was last Sunday morning, except this time it was a little different. Most of the time the breakfasts prepared are traditional. Occasionally, however, there comes a craving for fare that was commonplace to the breakfast table of my childhood years. Such a table was set with biscuits, sausage, and sausage gravy. The few sausage patties prepared by me left little drippings for making gravy, and so there was not much gravy to be served. Without thinking, and to satisfy my craving, I ate more than my share. Ten-year-old Brad, who was late getting started at the table, asked me for the gravy, and when I passed him the bowl, I discovered it was empty. I was bathed in guilt. Aware of what I had done, I began apologizing profusely. Listening to me trying to deal with my guilt, Brad finally interrupted me to say, "Dad, words don't make gravy." My laughter competed with my astonishment at his insightful comment. Indeed, too many times we try to use words to fill vacuums left by deeds undone. It was Emerson who said, "I would rather see a sermon than hear one." If we were to draw a parallel between our most ancient forebears and ourselves, the thing most pronounced would not be the erectness of our bodies, our non-hairy forms or our non-slanting foreheads. The greatest distinction would probably be his tilling the soil with seeds and forked sticks, while we broadcast words to the winds. Too many lives have empty crevices which we chink with words.

Words are the most powerful instruments and weapons we possess. The words of Patrick Henry inflamed a thirst for freedom, the words of Abraham Lincoln healed a nation, the choice phrases of Winston Churchill broadened the backs of the British, and long-remembered, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself:", "Ask not what your country can do for you;" and "I have a dream," shouted from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial will always be threads of steel running through the enacted legislation for sustenance and change.

But, words can also be substitutes. When they become such, they are unworthily used.

Brad taught me that. I hope he will always remember it for himself. "Words don't make gravy."

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