Lessons Learned when Words Go Unheard.



They instruct.

They command.

But not always.

Not if they are not followed.

Not obeyed.

Sometimes, action is required.

Special action.

Case in point:

Call to mind just one of the old saws you long have heard, the one that instructs:

“Waste not, want not.”

If you just hear the words but don’t heed the words, the effect of the words is nil.

No, sometimes action is required to drive home the point.

Roger Summers
Roger Summers

Tell you a story:

Once upon a time – a time of a tough economy when hourly pay was figured not in dollars but in cents, when every cent counted – it made especially good sense to conserve.

Be tight fisted.

Control all costs – at all cost.

Especially household costs – food, utilities, transportation, more.

Well, one Head of Household in one particular family had been trying to drive this point home.

Waste not, want not.

Head of Household, for example, had told and told and told Kids of Household to turn off the lights when not using them.

Burning lights used electricity.

Electricity costs money.

Money was in short supply.

Burning lights when not in use was a waste of money.

Head of Household kept trying to get those words through to Kids of Household.

To no avail.

Kids of Household would appear to understand.

Then Kids of Household would go outside to play, leaving the lights in their rooms burning.

One particular evening when they did that, Head of Household changed tactics.

No more words.

No more preaching about money wasted on burning lights.

Head of Household took action.

While Kids of Household were out playing – lights burning in empty rooms, of course – Head of Household took corrective action.

He removed all of the burning bulbs from their sockets, threw them smashing, crashing to the floor.

After dark, when Kids of Household came in from play, they tried to turn on the lights.

No light.

As they walked across the floor, they were met with a crunch, crunch, crunch.

For some of them – who often played barefoot outside – it also was ouch, ouch, ouch.

Message received.

Yet, no words were spoken.

And, in those days when hourly wages were measured in cents, it would take time to pull together money for replacement light bulbs.

So, Kids of Household were in darkness for a good while.

Yet, they were enlightened.

To this day, Kids of Household have a firm grasp of that command to turn out the lights when not in use.

As do the Kids of Kids of Household.

And their Kids.

And . . .

Sometimes, words work.

Sometimes, words don’t.

So action is required.

Action that causes a bulb to come on.

To get the wordless message.

Action that burns ever so brightly.

That causes Kids of Household to see as they have not seen before.


Even now.

Especially now.

Down through the generations.

Perhaps in perpetuity.

Enlightening, huh?

Roger Summers is a journalist, author and essayist. 


Please click the book cover image to read more about the heart-warming short story collection of Roger Summers: Heart Songs From A Washboard Road.

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