How Do We Change the World?

Ever wonder what influence you’ll have had on the world by the time, as Shakespeare so eloquently said, “…we have shuffled off this mortal coil”? I think about it sometimes. In fact, not to be morbid, but I’ve even got a pretty good idea what will be said at my funeral. What better way to start off the New Year than by considering ones imminent death?

Among other things, I hope to leave the children whose lives I touch at school, with an interest in writing, and encourage them to use better words than “like” to punctuate sentences. In my opinion, use of the word like has reached epidemic proportions. 

Here are two examples: the first overheard between two teenagers, and the other straight from the lips of that celebrated hillbilly, Jed Clampett. 

Teen: “I was like, playing Nintendo like, all last night and it was like, awesome.” 

Irritating right? 

Now Jed: [That’s] “Like trying to poke a cat out from under a porch with a wet rope.” 

Jed Clampett not only knew how to use the word, he left us with a colourful image to boot.

Recently I was forced to ponder a legacy I’d passed along unwittingly. I learned of it one day when Randon, a small, bright-eyed boy who rides my school bus, peered over his seat to pose an irksome question to his older brother Carson, who sat behind me chatting. 

“Carson, where’s my toy? Where’s my toy? Where’s my toy? Where’s my…” Finally the older boy rounded on him in great exasperation and barked, “I don’t bloody know, you varmint!” 

Initially, I accepted this mild expletive as mere coincidence. I mean, yes, I suppose I do use the word bloody fairly often, but am I really responsible for this young man adding it to his vocabulary? 

And, I’m pretty sure folks other than Yosemite Sam call people varmints—right? Not just me?

However, when Randon exclaimed crossly in response, “Lord love a duck!” and slumped backward on his seat with a sigh, I knew it was true. The oddball words I use sometimes rub off on the children in my care. 

Alternatively, I hope driving tips I’ve given my offspring and others over the years will be remembered long after I’ve gone on to that great highway in the sky. Specifically, advice on backing up. I enjoy backing vehicles up. I always challenge myself to put whatever I’m driving, whether it be a tractor-trailer unit, tandem axle truck, bus or passenger vehicle, exactly where I want it. 

This came in handy when I drove for Bulldog Corral Cleaning, but relatives visiting from England this summer found it a bit alarming. 

One afternoon we piled into my SUV and I backed down the driveway at top speed, rather than turning it around sedately like some normal person might do. Nervously, they grabbed for the arm rests, and their eyes grew large as they twisted about to see where the heck we were going to end up. 

Which brings me back to the words I believe will be spoken as I’m lain to rest neath God’s good earth many years hence. A few friends will doubtless gather after the service, and whilst munching egg salad sandwiches at the provided lunch, a few will sadly shake their heads.

“Poor ole Helen,” they’ll say, “She wasn’t good for much, but by golly she could back up a bus.”

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