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Friday, June 21, 2013

A Sweet--and Very Literal--Lightbulb Moment

It takes all kinds.

I discovered that today in such an eye-opening and humorous way while talking to my irreplaceable and long-time friend Heather. I've known Heather just shy of 20 years. Most of that time, we've lived in different states, and maybe the geographical distance has served us well, because while we get along swimmingly, with never an actual conflict arising between us in all those years, we are so very different in some ways.

Heather is a practical thinker. I am a metaphorical thinker. I've even been called an "eschatological thinker." She's all about "what it is." I'm all about "what it means."

And in a phone conversation today, those two approaches collided in a humorous and helpful way.

My daughter Jane has been sick with strep. The first round of antibiotics knocked it back but didn't cure it, so we're in for the second. Not being a practical thinker, I did not think to tell the doctor that, at 12, Jane prefers pills to liquid medicine. When I arrived at the pharmacy yesterday, they had prepared for her a nasty, bitter, milky-white concoction she has to take twice a day for 10 days. Twenty doses of that vile elixir. I dreaded telling her almost as much as I dreaded the difficult altercation we're likely to have each time I have to dose her. TWENTY dreadful altercations. That's more bitter than the tonic.

So I told Heather about the situation, and her immediate response was to quote Mary Poppins: "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!" She said, almost cheerfully.

OK, I thought, yeah, that's a nice sentiment. And then I realized she was still talking. "It's a treat anyway, for a kid, if you don't have sweets all the time. It's soothing and it takes the taste of the medicine right out of the mouth."

What?! She was sounding downright scientific about this. She was LITERALLY talking about giving the kid a spoonful of actual sugar to ingest following the administration of the medicine. And I had to laugh at myself. Out loud. For several very long seconds. (You can ask Heather. She can confirm my authentic amazement.) Because it had never even occurred to me that that song was anything but metaphorical. I thought it was completely talking about interacting with other people, and the "spoonful of sugar" was a way of approaching another person gently, or with some sort of praise or affirmation before delivering criticism or bad news.

For one as deeply metaphorical as I am, it is easy to forget--or never even consider in the first place--that the metaphor is drawn directly from some practical, literal, real-life event or condition. As this one is.

Pause. Wait for it. This was my next response:


Yeah, it takes all kinds and we need each other. Heather helps keep my feet planted on this rock, this literal dirt-and-gravel-and-stone-with-all-kinds-of-boily-melty-stuff-underneath-it planet that we live out our physical (yes, physical!) lives on. And I help her learn to reach a bit for the stars, and to see the other layer in all the physical--what our artistic Creator was up to when he made the physical to reveal the glories of his character.

But he made us both--physical and spiritual, practical and meaningful, literal and symbolic. The existence is richer for the fullness of that experience.

And I'd even say it's sweet. Like a spoonful of sugar.

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