Once upon a time, there was a village wherein every person had one day been given a special gift. When any inhabitant of this place spoke, their words floated through the air as letters from a book, and they could be seen as they were spoken. You could see tongues lashing their words to the timeline of history. This gift had its benefits. For one thing, it made the question, “What did you say?” quite archaic, as everyone’s words trailed out behind them endlessly and it was easy to read a sentence your ears missed. But as you can imagine, there were also difficulties.
The inhabitants of the town could watch the Times New Roman shoot from a boy's lips, all angles, and embed in his sister’s heart. They could see feeble diplomatic truisms fade as soon as they appeared, like a double rainbow in a noon sky. These gifted citizens could watch someone’s lips moving, but see issuing out only transparent letters faintly outlined in black: empty and hypocritical. In this village, a person could voice whatever he wanted, but the truth would be revealed in the form taken by the letters sliding into the atmosphere. For once, the euphemism “white lie” actually held true, for deceitful words were as colorless as hypocritical ones. Furthermore, there would be no doubt as to whether a person was angry (red words), depressed (blue), or sarcastic (orange).
The good people of this city have a curious comprehension of the volume of their words. The story goes that the mouth of one young miss was never quiet. On that bewildering day when the people woke up with the gift of seeing their words pour out in front of them like warm breath on a December day, this miss was cured of her gabbiness. Wherever she went on that day, her tongue wagging, she was spinning a mile long train of letters which grew to be such a weight that she could hardly drag them behind her. Furthermore, the other inhabitants of the town either cackled uproariously at her embarassingly long train of words or skittered away, amply warned of her active tongue. She soon learned listening was better than littering the ground behind her with words.
Another vice was demolished that day as well—gossip. The ladies of the town used to indulge in a chat about all the other people in the town like some people indulge in chocolate. It only took a week or so before one of these ladies turned around from her chat and greeted the one she had been gossiping about—who could easily see the snarky sentences the woman had just been speaking spelled out in front of her. If you had to drag those caustic words around behind you all day, you would think twice before speaking them, too. The fact that they were whispered in secret only served to italicize them, not to hide them from the public eye.
But words of praise were all the more sweet and prevalent because they were displayed all the day long. Words of repentance challenged every other person who saw them to clear up clouds in their own lives. Words of love let everyone know who was important to each person.
This gift simply appeared on that sunny June morning, and one gray Monday five years later, it just as suddenly disappeared. The first early bird awoke, stretched, and whispered “Good morning” to his wife, then suddenly grabbed at his mouth. He tried again, and the words sounded, but no words flowed from his mouth. He shook his wife awake in desperation, and she grumbled, “What is it?” before her eyes widened and she realized that the gift was gone.
The whole town was abuzz with the loss of their gift, and they poured out of their doors, milling around in the town square and mourning together as if their sole source of livelihood had been destroyed. The young miss who had previously been a gabber tentatively began to gab again, now that no one could see her words dragging her down. The gossips began to speculate about who could be to blame, and nearly everyone forgot to praise their loved ones. The confusion was only growing, and some citizens were plotting desperate action to recover their gift.
Suddenly, a young man leapt atop a chicken crate, filled his mouth with his fingers, and whistled ear-piercingly. The whistle slammed against the rumbling of the townspeople, shocked silence billowed, and the young man cleared his throat.
“Good people! I hail from yonder village, and my grandfather here has a tale he wishes to tell you of! Give him heed!”
The young man helped up an aged man with a silvery pointed beard, who opened his mouth and spoke with a great deep voice. He needed no words floating in the air to communicate.
“When I was but a boy, I heard my father tell the story of a mysterious gift that had been bestowed on our village when he had been but a youngster. This gift, I now know, was the same one you have enjoyed for the past years, and like yours, it too disappeared after five years. Was it all just fantasy, my father said his townspeople asked? Nay, he said, and I agree. True, your words now do not incarnate themselves in visual form, but all the ramifications of speech embodied in visible symbols still hold true. Do shots from our lips not pain our loved ones as truly as a bloody stab? Do meaningless niceties not get devoured by true, courageous statements? Does not gossip somehow spread like food poisoning at a picnic…almost as if you trailed the words behind you?
“Hear me when I say to you that even though you may no longer be able to discern the true motive behind every word others speak to you, God still can. Furthermore, He sees our words as deeply as if we could see them flowing from our mouths, a fount of fonts. And His sight is far more important than ours.”
The old man stepped down, and the young man grasped his grandfather's elbow as the old man hobbled away. The townspeople were silenced, and then, in that silence, they began to look at each other and smile. The gift was not all gone, then, and they lived that day and every day afterwards as if the gift was still in their possession. And not a happier or more prosperous town existed in the entire land.
“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” -Matthew 12:36
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.