The powerful thing (to me) about this story is not the obvious message of “you’re never too old to learn, and change your life,” but rather the message of “no matter what life throws at you – YOU are the one that is responsible for how YOU choose to live it.”
He witnessed – as a kid – another kid get murdered by a bunch of angry white folks for something the boy did NOT do.
George could have spent his entire life hating white people.
George could have lived his entire life justifiably angry – there were plenty of folks there that could have and should have stopped what was happening.
George could have spent his entire life upset with authority – the sheriff watched over the situation.
Instead, George listened to his father who told him:
“Some of those white folks was mean and nasty. Some were just scared. It doesn’t matter though. You have no right to judge another human being. Don’t you ever forget.”
When you don’t know what to say… Say the wrong thing.
This isn’t really something I necessarily learned, but it is definitely something I can relate to –
Unintentionally hurting someone with foolish words and not being able to fix it.
He just shrugged. So Ashe asked, “You don’t want to talk to me?”
George nodded and mumbled, “Yeah, I guess that’s it.”
Now, that wasn’t it at all…
George could tell right away that was the wrong thing to say – as she turned away with tears in her eyes. He didn’t intend to hurt her, but he did – and he never did find a way to fix it.
When dealing with stubbornness – don’t throw stones, use sugar.
On their farm they had a faithful mule that did much of the work. Of course, mules have a reputation as being stubborn – ol’ Blue could be one of them from time-to-time. George tells the story of one such time in which he could not get Blue to do what needed to be done. In a fit – the only one he admits to – George picks up a rock and throws it at the mule. Instead of hitting Blue’s flank, he hits the mule in the eye… George hurt the animal pretty badly and carried the regret the rest of his life. George knew how to motivate the animal using something the animal liked – but this time he chose to throw stones instead and did far greater harm than he did good.
Surely that’s a parable everyone can understand…