Under the Paper Bag



The antics of the small boy must have been something to see.  Around and around the little yard he ran, following the sound of his brothers’ voices.  
“Hey!  Over here.  Right here.  Come and get me!”
“No!  I’m this way!  You better turn this direction!”
Zig-zagging across the yard and around the small mobile home, the little guy scrambled, his head covered in a brown paper sack.  No one forced him to put it over his head.  He just figured it would be fun.  It was.  For a little while.
But soon, his older brothers had decided that it would be fun to confuse the four-year old and began to shout instructions to him.  He attempted to obey, following first one voice, then another.  From the inside of the sack, it was hard to know where he was, so he began to rely on the voices.  It was a poor decision, since they weren’t interested in helping, only in laughing at the antics of the baby of the family.
Around and around, swerving this way and that, he ran.  It was a disaster waiting to happen.  The disaster wasn’t long in coming.
Rounding the front of the trailer home, he sped at full tilt, thinking he was close to catching one of the boys.  He never knew anything was in his way until it smacked him right between the eyes.  Thunk!  The sharp edge of the butane gas tank mounted on the tongue of the trailer caught him right on the bridge of his nose, slicing right through the brown paper and nearly to the bone.  As we like to say in the South, he bled like a stuck pig.  There was blood spurting everywhere.
The red-headed mother of the little imps was outside instantly when the other kids shouted for her.  Her years of training as a registered nurse (and a few more years of being the parent to five children) kicked in and she immediately held the skin closed over the cut, staunching the flow of blood.  After a little clean up, a butterfly bandage did the trick of holding the little tyke’s nose and forehead together, giving the gash a chance to heal.  It would be good as new soon enough.
Well, perhaps not as good as new.  Now a fifty-six year-old man, he can still look in the mirror and see the scar.  Fifty-two years later, the lesson is reinforced with regularity.  
There is no guarantee that he has learned it yet.
__________
Frequently, I post one of these essays on a writing website, hoping for some advice on grammar and punctuation.  I even look for some input regarding the structure of the piece.  I am learning that it is a little dangerous to do this, perhaps even a bit like donning a paper bag and following unseen voices.  There are many voices, from many different walks of life, here.
A recent essay, one of my personal favorites, garnered numerous reviews, much to my initial delight.  Most of them were light and non-threatening–words like loved it and great writing leading the pack.  Then, there were the more in-depth ones, each with their own idea of how the narrative could be improved.  There were constructive ideas, and one or two of them pointed out errors which I should have caught myself.  But, a few in the in-depth category picked apart the style and the voice used (“You should have used first person, past tense…”, “Make up your mind; is it father or dad?”), and one critic wrote a review almost as long at the piece itself.
I almost decided to rewrite the entire essay, attempting to follow most of the suggestions, and then submit it for their review again.  Almost.
The email arrived tonight.  The fellow who wrote the lengthy review was contacting me again.  I opened the email warily, not sure about what I would find.  My suspicions were confirmed upon reading the missive.  
“Hi. I checked your story again, and noticed you haven’t made the corrections, yet.”  There was more in the same vein.  I was being castigated for not making the prescribed changes this particular reviewer suggested!
My first reaction was outrage.  I won’t repeat the thoughts that went through my head.  I have calmed down now.  It seems though, that I must have smacked my head on something as I followed the disembodied voices around the little yard I have been playing in. 
Not to worry, though.  The blood has all been cleaned up; the bandage applied to start the healing process.
__________
You may not be a writer.  Perhaps you play music or paint still lifes.  Are you not an artist at all?  Maybe a teacher, a mechanic, a clerk, or an electrician.  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever you do, there are voices telling you to do it better, or faster, or more often.  Lots of them. 
We all spend time under the paper sack, listening to the voices that direct us in the convoluted dance that is our life.  We want to make people happy.  We need their approval.  
Or do we?
Today I’m suggesting there is only one voice I must heed; only one which makes any difference in the long run.  I need the approval of One, not many.  Most of you who read my essays with any regularity know where this is headed.  The rest of you won’t need much of a clue to figure it out.
I will leave you with a clue, nevertheless.  Who is it that can be trusted to be a faithful guide, never running us into barriers?  Who wants nothing less than the best for us, and has only plans to benefit us?
Ah!  I see the paper sacks beginning to come off now.
It’s so much easier to walk when we are in the light, isn’t it?
“Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
(Ephesians 6:7 ~ NLT)
“Soli Deo Gloria”
(Latin meaning “Glory to God Alone”, used most famously by Johann Sebastian Bach on his musical works.)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved. 




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