A Gentle Giant
By Alice Stone Thomas
When I was a child, an unpleasant man lived in our neighborhood. He was tall, heavy-set, broad shouldered, and roared at his wife and children like a volcano that regularly erupted. When he mowed his lawn he always wore a big scowl, even when we smiled at him. The men of the community avoided contact with him, nodding respectfully as they passed, but getting little or no response.
One day while some of the neighborhood kids were playing softball in our front yard, a wild hit made its way to the man's yard and crashed through his kitchen window. We froze in our tracks, terrified of what he might do. He charged out of his house with the ball in his hand. My mouth turned dry and my hands gripped the bat tightly as he headed straight for me.
Then suddenly my father came out of our house, all 130 pounds of him. I almost fainted for my father was no match for him. The man's voice boomed at us, demanding to know who had done it. My father put his arm around my shoulders and gently said, "My daughter is responsible and we are truly sorry. I expect to replace your window."
I held my breath while the other kids hovered together as they inched away from us. The man's face lost its grimace as his eyes met my father's. He accepted my father's apology and told him it was not necessary for us to replace it. They shook hands and I saw the big man smile. As he walked away, that giant of a man began to shrink in front of me, while my father grew in stature right before my eyes.
I remembered Solomon's advice in Proverbs 15:1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (NIV). Our human nature makes us want to fight the enemy on his terms—anger for anger, hate for hate. Both Solomon and Jesus advised just the opposite. Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28, "But I say to you who hear, love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (NIV). Although the neighbor was not an enemy, he could easily have become one if my father had met him in the spirit of anger. But he didn't. He let the Spirit of God lead him to a gentle answer and it turned a potential enemy into a long-lasting friend.
Since that day I have prayed for the wisdom of both my fathers: my Heavenly Father from whom such wisdom originates, and my earthly father who exemplified it so well.
Alice Stone Thomas © 2015, printed with permission.
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Alice Stone Thomas lives in Montgomery County, Texas, where she is an Adjunct Professor of English at Lone Star College. She recently retired from a 26 year career in secondary education and loves to garden. Her devotionals, short stories, articles, columns, and poetry have been published in more than 30 publications, including Open Windows, Victoria, and Texas Gardener.
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