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Yesterday, I was reading a blog post about Proverbs 27:14, which reads, "If you shout a pleasant greeting to your neighbor too early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse!"

One thing I love about the proverbs is how thought-provoking they are. We start with the obvious: even nice things--good things--can be annoying if they're done at the wrong time. If I'm bringing you homebaked chocolate chip cookies, but I deliver them at 5 a.m. with a strident ring on the doorbell, the effect of the nice gesture is going to be rather lost. There is a time and a place for everything!

Of course, we can then step further and ask, "Well, how early is too early?" I mean, I'm up at 6 on school mornings, but I have friends who shouldn't be disturbed before 10 a.m., or even noon. A lot depends on the day and the person and the circumstances. So we have here another thought: just because you are up early (and happy), don't assume that other people are! There's a certain amount here of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. As we know, "Do unto others as you'd have done to you" only goes so far.

Lastly, though, it occurred to me that we can take this another step and put ourselves in the shoes of the person who is counting the greeting as a curse. Let me tell you about two boys first. We'll call one Boy A and one Boy B. Boy A wakes with a bounce and an enthusiastic heart. He rises full of vim and vigor, ready to tackle breakfast and running on all four cylinders.

The other boy, Boy B, wakes halfway, falls asleep, and needs about five wake-up calls to finally rise. He gets dressed lying on the floor to "use less energy" and then trails into the kitchen, eyelids at half-mast. He bids me "good morning" in a humming language that does not usse words. He does not want to talk, he does not want to hear a funny joke, he does not, in fact, want anything other than to eat really slowly while being left alone.

These two sit next to each other.

You can imagine the fun and frivolity as Boy A greets his brother with verve and joy and Boy B thinks about shoving napkins in his ears to avoid the sound of Boy A's voice. Two boys who usually get along very well can be at loggerheads within minutes--one crying and angry and the other exasperated--"I didn't DO anything! I just told him a joke!"

Now, here's the thing. One's pleasant morning greeting is being counted as a curse. Should he know better than to jump immediately into conversation and frivolity? Yes. But on the other hand...Boy B should know that his brother is not trying to be rude or loud, but rather to spend some time with him before leaving for school.

Which brings us to how personally most of us take things when a gesture falls flat. We are quite quick to snarl to ourselves and to others about that loser who woke us up with his noisy singing. I think that there is a lesson about that here, too: look at the intent. Look at the motivation. Was the person really trying to be annoying? Were they really being completely careless? Or were they making a gesture that didn't communicate itself in the way it was intended?

Whether we're morning people or not, we can all learn something about time, place, and motivation from this parable.


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June 2015

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