After my sister, Freeda, and I returned to their North Carolina cabin in the mountains, I helped my brother-in-law finish putting together a porch swing unit he’d been working on. When we’d finished tightening bolts and adjusting chain lengths, Olian and I hoisted the bench seat onto the A-frame mounts. With the bottom of the seat hanging at waist height, we thought we might adjust the chains again. That brought it down to mid-thigh so we adjusted again. After a couple more quick sessions of fastening, un-fastening and re-fastening, we had it pretty much where we thought we wanted it.
So then, just to be sure, we had Freeda come try it out. After another quick session of fastening, un-fastening and re-fastening, we had it right on the money. After that, Olian and I installed the smaller swing seat on the smaller A-frame out in the yard and closer to the top of the hill. Having gained from our experience with the other project, we got this one the way we wanted it with fewer adjustments of chain length.
It strikes me that we seem to learn pretty quickly from some experiences, such as adjusting chain length on a porch swing. Then, from others, we can be as dense as a doorstop. A man hits his finger with a sledgehammer and almost immediately resolves to avoid doing that sort of thing again. The same man can insult his boss and get fired. Three or eight jobs later, he still hasn’t learned a thing.
Or maybe it’s that he’s struggling with some problem that goes a lot deeper than the pain from a busted finger. And, maybe, just maybe, he never learned that sometimes a few slight taps with a rubber mallet would serve him better than a full roundhouse swing with a sixteen-pound hammer.
I think that if we really paid attention to the multiple effects of our actions, we might find the truth in the old proverb that a few words of wisdom softly spoken will yield more fruit than a whole bushel of harsh words yelled in anger.