Would You Have Put That Label There If You Knew It Was Permanent?


The first Christmas I was the “leader” (not sure who was leading who) of the Commissary at the Jail, several of the people who worked in the Commissary, and their spouses, were going to come to the Sheriff’s Department Christmas Party!  I was sooo excited that we were going to get to have a social evening together (there’s a dinner, a few speeches, lots of door prizes, and a DJ for dancing), so I told them, because I knew I had to be there early, that I would save a table so that we could all sit together. 

When that evening came, Hubby and I were there early because we were “greeters” (that will be listed under “experience” on our applications to Wal-Mart) so, I couldn’t just sit at a table and “shoo” people away from it to make sure we could all sit together, so how was I going to save a table?”  I had an idea — I’d write Commissary on the paper tablecloth!    So I borrowed a marker from the bartender, and picked out a choice table, and then just wrote “Commissary” in big letters across the tablecloth  so that people would know that it was reserved for “Commissary” people.  (Did I mention it was pretty dark in the room at that time?)

A little while later, at a lull in the “meetin’ and greetin'” I was noticing the room –the lights had been turned up and candles had been lit — it looked verrry nice.  A new group was in charge this year, and they had really “glam-ed” it up — candles on every table — china and REAL silverware (instead of the plastic from previous years), and even real linen napkins and tableclothes.  Oh my gosh, had I written “Commissary” on a LINEN tablecloth?  I rushed off to check on the table I had “labeled” in the off chance that the budget was tight and that maybe (please God) THAT table  had a PAPER one.  No such luck.  Long story short, I left my name and phone number with the catering people and told them I would pay for a replacement if the marker didn’t come out.  I never heard from them, so either it DID come out, or they just wrote it off as the “cost of doing business.”

Would I have labeled that table if I had known I would be ruining the tablecloth?  Absolutely not.  And, I think we do the same thing sometimes in life when we label people.  Would we put that negative “label” on them if we knew it might be permanent?

When our children were very little we had neighbors who had a little girl who was just a couple months older than DD.  From the time they were old enough to play outside, DD and Kammy were best friends.  I have a darling picture of the two of them sitting in a rocking chair together — happy as two bugs in a rug!  But, Kammy’s Mom, who I LIKED (even likeable people do thoughtless things sometimes), did something in my hearing one day that sent chills up my spine.  She called Kammy, “Dummy.”  I didn’t say anything that time, because I was surprised, and thought maybe it was a one-time thing, but the NEXT time I heard her say it, I HAD to say something.  So, I waited until she and I were out of earshot of the kids and told her I thought she ought to be careful about calling Kammy, “Dummy.”  She laughed it off, and said that Kammy knew she was just kidding.  I never heard her call Kammy that again, and I hope that is because she decided it wasn’t a good idea, not that she was just careful not to say it in front of me. 

That family moved out of state just a couple years later, and we only heard from and about them occasionally.  But, this is what I have heard — Kammy didn’t finish high school, has never been married but has several children, and has never been financially self-sufficient, still depending on her parents to subsidize her and her children.  I believe that how Kammy’s life has turned out was surely influenced by a label that was thoughtlessly attached to her as a child, that I’m sure her mother never thought would be “permanent.”

When I read an obituary in the paper that lists “step-grandchildren” I always wonder what that says about the relationships in that family.  Our oldest granddaughter was 5 years old when her Mom married Gunny.  I have always told her that she was ALWAYS our grandchild — we just didn’t KNOW her until she was five.  And, I can truthfully say that I love all six of our grandchildren equally.  So, I wonder what thought process makes a grandparent differentiate between how grandchildren came into their lives?  Do they think that the blood running through their veins is something special, so that “blood” grandchildren, are somehow “better?”  Let me just say this — I believe that God loves each of my grandchildren equally, and he expects me to love them equally too! 

One last “label.”  I have known women who never have anything good to say about their husbands, and I’m sure you have too.  Now, I know there aren’t any “perfect” husbands out there, but I have to think that there MUST be SOME good things that could be said about those husbands, if the wives would just choose to enumerate them instead of their faults. 

I have always subscribed to the theory that my spouse is a reflection of ME!  If I LABEL him as an “idiot” or “lazy” or “inconsiderate,” how smart does that make ME look that I MARRIED the low-life!  I prefer to look for the good in the man I married, and talk about his positives rather than his negatives whenever possible. Because, I assume, if he is GREAT — doesn’t that make me look “Brilliant” that I married him?  I tell people that I have been the president of Hubby’s “fan club” since I was 15 years old! 

May we each see (actively, LOOK FOR) something in our spouse TODAY that reminds us how lucky we are to be married to them.  And, if we are speaking to someone  about them TOMORROW — may that positive thought be the one that comes out of our mouths.

Be very careful of the labels you put on people — you never know which ones might become permanent.

8 Responses to Would You Have Put That Label There If You Knew It Was Permanent?

  1. Linda says:

    Great post. Who would have thought that that magic marker on a linen tablecloth could have conveyed such an important life lesson?

  2. Dixiechick says:

    Wow…what a thought provoking post….I am going to print this out, share it with my Mother-in-law….I have three children from my previous marriage and one child with her son. We have been together almost six years, both of my inlaws do not acknowledge my other children…I mean, Christmas, they will give them one gift, while they lavish Max with tons of stuff. It bothers me so much…My older two boys could care less, but my eight year old, I know it upsets him…I wished she looked at it like you do…

  3. Chrissy says:

    Great post! This post really spoke to me! I do think of the “Labels” the same way. I do often share mostly positive about my hubby, not only, will it make me feel better about the choice of my husband, but also, I will be over the silly, not so good, stuff shortly and when we tell others they don’t get over it as quick!! Not to mention speaking positive about others has a reward and speaks to that person. After all we live our lives: People are more important than things!!!

  4. Beth says:

    Great wisdom here!! I try to be really careful about how I talk to others about my husband. I hope I do the same for my kids–I need to watch that. I remember reading something one time about being careful even about seemingly-innocuous labels like “Oh, my daughter likes to be a little mother to her brother.” Our kids can start to think they HAVE to match up to the labels we give them. It’s hard not to accidentally label them!

  5. Sandra says:

    Beth — As you frequently do, you’ve added to this post with your comment. The example you give seems so innocent, but now that you point it out, I can see how it can shape how a child sees themselves. Thanks for that insight.

  6. Ted Burrett says:

    I read your blog for quite a long time and should tell that your articles always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

  7. […] It’s so easy to put a label on someone, isn’t it?  I shared my ideas about the subject here in Would You Have Put That Label There If You Knew It Was Going to […]

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