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Nicknames -Son of Tater –
or A Single Word can change a whole LIFE…
His family was poor. A fire in their small farmhouse destroyed almost everything they owned, and they owned very little. They were able to toss a few belongings out of the door before the flames engulfed the wooden frame structure and quickly reduced it to ashes and memories. They were able to rebuild and start over. He was 9 at the time, the year was 1927 and times were hard. He and his brother, who was 12 at the time of the fire, did what they could to help the family start over. He was nimble on feet and strong for his age. He could plow the mule and hoist a 90-pound sack of feed over his shoulder with ease.
he crops from that year came in and the family was able to can some of the produce from the garden, but they needed to sell most of the produce to purchase the household necessities for the coming new year. He loaded the wagon with the freshly dug potatoes, both sweet and “Irish” potatoes burdened the wagon’s bed. He hitched the mule early and set off for town to “peddle the potatoes”. Each day that Fall he would repeat the daily task of loading potatoes from the cellar onto the wagon and wouldn’t come home until well after dark. All in exchange for less a dollar for a whole wagon load of potatoes. Because the task of peddling potatoes consumed the whole day, he was unable to attend school. But some of the other children who went to school would see him on his daily route and he soon was dubbed “Tater”. A nickname he despised, for it was not out of loving fondness that he was called by the nickname, but out of derision and shame.
He really didn’t miss going to school that Fall. He had started school at the young age of 4; his brother was going to school, so his parents sent him. The family could only afford “school clothes” for one, so he had to wear “dungarees” or denim work pants. (Now it is considered quite fashionable to wear jeans with patches – however, in that day it was a less than subtle way to identify the haves and the have-nots). When he was able to return to school, he was faced with the taunts from the other children – “Look here comes ‘Tater’ with the worn out drawers and floppy shoes”. Not exactly a winsome welcome or a reason to be eager about continuing your education.
Now, you would have thought that on Sunday when the family was able to stop the labor of the week and make their way to gather for worship to hear the local circuit riding Methodist preacher that the taunts, jeers, finger pointing and name calling would be set aside – but alas – it was not and even some of the adults would turn and say – “Hey look there comes Tater Brown”.
My Daddy loathed that nickname and was in more than one fight to attempt to stop others from using it – all to no avail.
One day when I was with Daddy, we ran into an old acquaintance of his from childhood that he had not seen for more than 40 years. The man recognized Daddy at once and shouted across the room, “Hey Tater”. Daddy was startled but glad to see his acquaintance. They exchanged pleasantries and talked about their respective families, and then soon went their separate ways.
When I asked Daddy about why the man had called him Tater, Daddy shared the story that I have just shared with you.
I asked him how he dealt with the hurtful words and the taunts of the other children. He said, “At first, I thought I could fight and use my fists to make them stop. But that only got me in trouble with the teacher and didn’t stop the other kids – it made it worse, they would call me little fighting tater. The teacher told me – “Remember, Sticks and Stones can break your bones but words can never harm you”- So, I decided I wouldn’t listen to the taunts and jeers and be drawn into fights, and then they called me a yellow tater. It was a no-win situation. Then I asked Papa (his Father) what to do about the other kids. And Papa said – ‘Son, you have to decide whether you are going to let other folks decide who or what you are or if you are going to decide for yourself.
Do you let other folks decide who or what you are? Or are you willing to live into the full potential that God has created in you?
"Sticks and Stones" is an English language children's rhyme. The rhyme persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured.
It is reported to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an "old adage" in this form:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me.
The phrase also appeared in 1872, where it is presented as advice in Tappy's Chicks: and Other Links between Nature and Human Nature, by Mrs. George Cupples. The version used in that work runs: Sticks and stones may break my bones - But names will never harm me.
The old adage and advice from his teacher were meant to be encouraging and yet we know the power of words. The Word of God guides us and the words we speak – to, with, and about one another should be uplifting and encouraging!
The conversation that day with my Daddy had a profound influence on my life. I realized the power of words and the choices we must exercise to use words to encourage and not to tear down. So as “Son of Tater” I choose to build up and offer hope not to discourage and destroy. I pray you do the same! The Psalmist reminds us –“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Psalm 18:21)
I never had a nickname, until I started dating Denise and her Father (who had a nickname for all her boyfriends) – dubbed me “Greased Lightning” - But that is another story for another day! 😀
The Power of Words – What a powerful witness for Christ!
Allow me to extend to you an invitation to use your words to encourage others. Also, allow me to encourage you to use the skills, gifts, Grace and talents that you possess to make a positive difference in the lives of children by signing up to help with the “CREATE CAMPS” this summer at Rome First. Please look for the information in this issue of the Herald, go to the website www.romefirst.org or call Cathy Aiken-Freeman to learn more about how to use your words and deeds to build a Christian Community not known only for magnificent historic structures but renown for “serving Rome by loving and welcoming all as partners in transformation".
I’ll see you here for worship this Sunday and for a life changing small group or class!
P.S.- If you havean nickname and would like to share it with me and how you got it, I’d love to hear your story!