No. 398

Several weeks ago I got a note from a lady who is a faithful reader down in the great state of Texas. Her name is Juanita Rogers and she is also a columnist for her hometown newspaper. The reason for her note was to comment on a recent column I had written about the fear of rattlesnakes. For the benefit of my good friends down in Sweetwater, Texas where the 'rattlesnake roundup' is held each year, what I was talking about was not so much about the danger of these reptiles but about some people who are as dangerous as rattlesnakes.
Jaunita told me that one of the things she liked about Michigan, a state where she and her husband had formerly lived, is that you did not have to be fearful of snakes. She went on to say that my column reminded her of a story that she had heard many years ago. After checking out a Website she gave me, I learned that this story has been around for years and it apparently originated with the Native Americans and has been handed down from one generation to the next. Hopefully you will appreciate this background information because it clearly demonstrates the truth that a good story will survive the test of time and remain in existence for many, many years.
This story contains a moral that will help any thinking person to live a happy and more rewarding life and it begins, "A man was walking along a mountain path when he came upon a snake. The weather was cold and the snake begged the man to pick him up and carry him inside his jacket so he could be warm. The man said, "No I won't do that because you would bite me." The snake promised he wouldn't and after much discussion back and forth the man agreed to do this for the snake if he promised he would not bite the man. The snake promised. The man had walked along the mountain path a little longer when the snake bit him. The man cried out, "But you promised you would not bite me!" The snake replied, "But you knew what I was when you picked me up."
Now that is a dandy statement that we could ponder for the next twenty years. While this man did know that this was a snake, the central point here is that the snake lied to this kindhearted man. Unfortunately this has been going on since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Here I might pose this question for you to think about. Have you ever had anyone lie to you and it caused you great harm or misfortune? If you have, then you should get the moral of this story.
Every once in a while I run across someone who is really singing the blues because of some lapse in judgment and they often say, "I should have known better." Whether it's a business deal gone bad, a personal relationship that ended tragically or some person had taken them to the cleaners, it was later revealed that this person had unfortunately checked their brains at the front door and they were taken advantage of. It's true. We must be careful when we pick up things that are harmful to us. Some people will just flat out lie. I don't have to tell you that Satan uses people to accomplish his evil schemes.
In addition to the things I mentioned earlier, there are many harmful things we can pick up, like drugs, cigarettes (ever hear of a smoke free environment?) liquor, gambling, pornography, prostitutes, bad habits of various kinds and sometimes even more destructive attitudes of anger, hatred, intolerance and greed. Now, lest you think I am being judgmental let me be very clear here. In my earlier days I used to judge other people but I quit when I found myself doing many things that were far worse than what I was judging others for.
As I have said many times in the past, I am just a sinner that has been saved by God's amazing grace. There is a vast difference between being judgmental than having a deep love for other people and wanting the very best for their lives. While I never want to take myself too seriously, I take what I do and what I write in this column very seriously. Here is only one the reasons why this is true. A few weeks ago I got a wonderful letter from a reader in Oklahoma who said, "We greatly look forward to many more years of your articles and insights. With six adult children and 13 grandchildren, we have found many situations your articles apply to. I often mail things to the kids. They seem to take it to heart better when someone besides mom and dad is saying it."
This is certainly not original, but the bottom line is this. When we play with fire we are going to get burned. It does not take a genius to understand this truth, but there are millions of people in our country who make poor choices every day and not always, but in many cases, the choices they make literally destroy their lives. We should really be aware of the things we pick up. Our future depends on it. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)