Honeycutt: Jabbering Jimmy
By: Jim Honeycutt
I may not have learned to speak early, but once I did, I had plenty to say. At least that’s what my father always told me when I was a child. If you were looking for a place of peace and quiet, it was seldom found sitting next to me as a youngster. Mom said I jabbered just to hear myself.
Once in third grade Mrs. Coker, my teacher, decided the best way to curb interruptions from me in the classroom was to use a chart labeled Walking and Talking. If you were caught out of your seat without permission or you were talking out of turn, she made you put a check by your name on the chart. Heck, to me that was a game. I knew I couldn’t be the quietest, it wasn’t in me, so I chose to be the clown. Surely if I had the most marks I would be the winner in the eyes of the other kids. So I did my best to get others to laugh. After a few days she decided I didn’t quite grasp the concept, for I smiled and ran over to put a mark by my name every time she corrected me. Jimmy, she said as she called me over, it’s not the goal to get checks. The goal is to not have any marks by your name. I know, I said with a smile. Well Jimmy, when you get marks you don’t get to go out to play at recess. That’s ok I’ll just stay in here with you. She just sat there with a blank look on her face as my words sunk in. You could see the panic creeping up as she realized that if she made me stay in during recess, she would be stuck with me one on one. Her quiet time, her precious quiet time, that she used to review teaching assignments would disappear. Her alone time to catch her breath after being with third graders for hours would fade away. Replaced by time alone with a nine-year-old with a jabber mouth. In all her years no child willingly stayed with her during play time.
A little while after that the Walking and Talking chart disappeared. In its place appeared The Helper chart, that recorded the helpful things a child might do in class. Waiting your turn to speak, answering a question after holding up your hand, walking in a straight line to lunch and other polite actions. The reward for the star she would place by your name depended on who you were. For some of the kids, sitting in the back reading a book from her library while the rest of the class worked was motive. For me it was cleaning the erasers outside. Now that was a treat of epic proportions. Out there I was free, free to create large dust clouds of chalk. While others sat in that smelly old classroom, I was outside enjoying the fresh air. Well, fresh air filled with chalk dust. And Mrs. Coker enjoyed my freedom also since I was very much out of her hair!
At least for a short while. What Mrs. Coker discovered with me was that I did better with a carrot than a stick. In other words, when given a chance to succeed by providing a positive motive rather than using fear of punishment, I thrived. I ran into Mrs. Coker forty years after our shared third grade experience. Upon learning who I was the smile on her face disappeared as she gasped, I nearly quit teaching because of you. Well Mrs. Coker thanks for hanging in there, I can assure you I have changed. It’s not that I don’t still enjoy conversation, I just have matured into being able to control myself better. But just slightly better, according to those who know me best.
In our relationship with God we have a choice. To be motivated by fear of punishment or to thrive under the Divine Promises of His Word. Our Father would rather us be in relationship with Him by mutual Love than by fear of punishment. In 1John 4:18 the writer says this: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. So my desire for you is that you let The Love of God permeate your being, motivating your obedience to His Word.
Now that is something worth talking about.