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Communication Says Something

I will never forget driving down a busy boulevard one Sunday morning and passing a huge white tent set up in a parking lot for a fundraising activity for an animal rights group. The sign that caught my eye said: "Come On In---Free Hotdogs!" I have to admit; I laughed until I cried! I have always regretted not going back to take a picture!

Speaking of funny signs or misprints, here are a few bloopers that were reportedly printed in church bulletins:

  • The Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

  • Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30 pm. Please use the back door.

  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.

  • Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say “hell” to someone who doesn’t care much about you.

  • The sermon this morning: Jesus Walks on the Water. The sermon tonight: Searching for Jesus.

  • The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind and they may be seen in the church basement Friday.

  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.

  • The 1997 Spring Council Retreat will be hell May 10 and 11.

  • The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

I found many more Church bulletin misprints that were hilarious, but that I figured someone might find inappropriate to reprint even for a laugh. It is amazing how just one letter, one word, or a grammatical or punctuation error can totally change what is communicated. This is one reason why it is reported that at least 50% of text messages and emails are misunderstood by the recipients.

Back in the days of hand written letters, we often wrote enough words that our emotions and intent were more clearly understood. If the interpretation of one paragraph was questionable, the others would bring clarification. With text messages and emails however, the communication is most often so brief, there is little room to change initial impressions.

Voice inflection, volume and punctuation also have much to do with how we communicate with one another and what is understood between parties. Consider this example of the same phrase presented in two different ways. Read each line one at a time then ask yourself what you understand it to say, then read the next line.

1. A mother without her children are lost.

2. A mother, without her, children are lost.

Can you see how easily the same words communicate totally different meanings just based on punctuation? Inflection, volume and emotion are often 'assumed' in oral communication, but are almost always 'assumed' by the reader in written communication. One party's mood, frame of mind, level of concentration, education, worldview, and other extenuating circumstances will greatly affect how they interpret the intent of what they see, hear, or read from another party.

Sometimes we communicate erroneous or misleading information just by pure accident. Other times, what we say we believe, we just fail to live out--though it may be hard for us to actually see our failure.

For example; most Americans would agree that every child in the U.S. should have access to health insurance. Many would even be bold in making that assertion public. They really believe that they believe it! However; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 there were 4.3 million children in the U.S. without medical insurance. That was 400,000 more than in 2017 despite the fact that our economy was booming at record levels.

In a country as large as ours that might not sound too bad, until you consider other facts. According to the APPA (American Pet Products Association), 76% of U.S. households (or about 85 million families) own a pet. Pet spending by these families in 2018 was a record breaking $72.56 BILLION--a $3 BILLION increase from 2017 and a $6 BILLION increase from 2016. So every year, the dollars we spend on pets in the U.S. has been consistently growing by $3 BILLION.

In addition to that, according to the NAPHIA (North American Pet Insurance Association) in 2018, 2.43 million pets (89% being dogs), were insured at a cost of $1.42 billion. If my math is correct, we spend an estimated total of $17,209.30 per uninsured child in America just on our pets! These startling facts beg the question: Do we really believe that every child in America needs to have medical insurance? So what are we really communicating? If we really believed what we say we do, how different might these numbers look. It is surely not a question of available resources--but a matter of priorities!

To take what we really communicate a step further: On any given day, there are 437,000 children in foster care in the U.S. In 2018, 690,000 children spent at least some time in foster care. There are currently 107,918 children available for adoption according to the Adoption Network. There are also 2.5 million children that are homeless at some point each year in America. This is a historic high representing one in every 30 children in the U.S. as reported by the National Network for Youth.

How much are you hearing about the plight of uninsured and homeless children on a daily basis in America? What are you doing to address and resolve these issues that you profess to be important to you?

I have always been a pet lover. I have had insects, fish, frogs, lizards, turtles, snakes, squirrels, a monkey, goats, a deer, sheep, opossums, rabbits, parakeets, a parrot, ducks, chickens, turkeys, quail, dove, pigeons, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, pigs, cows, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, rats, and... that is all I can remember. I am surely not saying that animals are not important. I have them. I love them. I take good care of them, and if you are going to have them you ought to take care of them. I will cry when they die.

I believe all animals play an important role in our lives and I even believe animals will be in Heaven. My Bella may or may not be there, but there will be animals that I can love and handle without them fearing me or me fearing them! I believe that.

I do however believe that we have elevated the role of animals to a level that they were never intended to attain in God's creation. I look at all the needs of children here in America--which pale in comparison to the needs of children in the rest of the world, and in so many ways animals are valued more than the lives and welfare of children.

On social media, most people now relate to their pets as their children or family members. Even my daughter, when their beautiful Golden Retriever "Roxie" that she and my grandchildren loved, was killed by a car, posted: "We lost our little girl today." I know what she meant. I know she loves her children more than she loves herself and would not hesitate to lay down her life for theirs, but what was she communicating? She also had a little four year old daughter at home who was alive and well, other than being heartbroken over Roxie. (I use my daughter as an example because she lets me and gives me permission).

A few months have passed by, and now Ashley and her family have a new Golden Doddle (whoever thought up that name?) and they love her just as much as they did Roxie, and life is back to normal. That would NEVER happen had they lost precious little Brooke, who just won the title: "Tiny Miss New Brockton"! Do you see my point?

I get knots in my stomach when I see the animal rescue commercials on television that last for an ENTIRE minute and costs millions of dollars to produce. Just $19 per month will rescue a dog or cat AND pay for millions of dollars worth of 'advertising', when the same dollars would buy food and medical care for tens of thousands of children around the world--literally saving thousands upon thousands of lives! In addition, many of the children's souls would be saved when they learned about Jesus and many would get an education that would forever change their living situations.

I have to say, it really, really eats at me during the Christmas season when they play the sad ASPCA commercials showing animals in cages and they play Silent Night for a full 60-90 seconds of primetime advertising--knowing that it will pull at the hearts of loving and compassionate people. Christmas (and the song) are about the birth of Jesus, the coming of God in the flesh to show His love for man and to give His life for the redemption of mankind. To elevate the welfare of animals over the wellbeing of God's children just cheapens and devalues life!

Look at these pictures and ask yourself what is most important.

The top picture on the left is of a street dog somewhere in China whose future probably is not too bright. The next picture is of a little 11yr old Syrian refugee girl named Mize who we were helping in the Middle East. She got word that her abuser was coming back for her that night, so she poured kerosene over her head and set herself on fire to escape the pain of being brutalized. She survived the burns which burned off both ears and caused third degree burns on all of her upper torso. She is still undergoing surgeries eight years later as funds are available. The last picture is of me holding what was left of her clothes that we pulled off her little burning, pre-puberty body.

Which pictures pull at your heart? Is what you profess to believe what you really believe? What do your actions or lack of action to meet the desperate needs of children around the world communicate?

We do not have to choose between helping children and other worthy projects like animal welfare, but we do have to choose what our priorities will be.

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