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Sometimes we tell the truth because it’s already obvious to everyone. Once she realized that she had no chance at all of winning New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, it seemed Democratic contender, Barbara Buono, decided to speak the unvarnished truth.  One issue in her platform was the promise to provide universal day-care, but this week she said, “We didn’t have the resources (previously to fund day-care) and we certainly don’t have them now.” Politicians, telling the truth?  What is this world coming to?!? The fact of the matter is that she – along with the rest of us in the Garden State – had done the math. Governor Christie + Superstorm Sandy (minus a lot of weight via bariatric surgery) = Re-election.

Sometimes we tell the truth by accident. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching The First 48, a documentary-style series that follows homicide units as they try to solve crimes within two days of the event.  In one episode, a very large man with oddly long, pointy fingernails sits on his porch and talks to the police as cameras roll.  “I don’t even own a car, so it couldn’t possibly have been me who did it!” he insisted. Walking away from the man’s house, the detective looks at the camera and says, “We never told him the means of death, so how did he know it was a car that killed this victim?”

Sometimes telling the truth can be downright obnoxious, as is the case with a woman in North Dakota who planned to hand out letters to overweight children on Halloween that tells them they need to lose weight. I’ve got a feeling Mischief Night will make a return appearance for some time at her house!

But every once in a while, the truth will set you free.  When this bus driver, known to friends as “Big Country,” saw a woman standing on the edge of a bridge, he pulled the bus over, walked closer to her, put his arm around her in a bear hug and asked, “Don’t you want to come back over to this side of the ledge, Miss?” And she did.  She came off the ledge and prayed with him.  After the police arrived, he got back on his bus, and the patrons applauded.  The videotape of the incident went viral, and rightfully so. We wanted to celebrate this humble hero who stepped up and helped someone in pain. He had the truth on his side, and – I have to believe – God had his back. That’s the kind of truth that won’t steer you wrong.

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In New Jersey last week, gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono visited a school that had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy.  The newscaster said, “That 80 year old institution is badly in need of repairs.”

As he was speaking, the camera showed a close-up of Ms. Buono, who, while no spring chicken, certainly doesn’t appear to be an octogenarian.

Cut back to the anchor, looking sheepish.  That didn’t come out right!

Early in his career, the CEO of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen and his musicians were introduced as “Bruce Springstreet and the E Steen Band.”  Hardest working guy in rock and roll, and they can’t even get his name right?

The Chevrolet Nova didn’t sell well in Central and South America, leaving the carmaker’s executives puzzled.  Finally, someone figured out the problem.  Apparently, in Spanish, “No va” translates to “it doesn’t go.”

Isn’t it also true that even we, as people of faith, might say something we intend to be positive, only to find that it’s taken as an affront?

“I’m praying for you.”

Just as SueBE said in her insightful post earlier this year, this is meant as a helpful thing when we say it, but sometimes it can come across as pitying, or even insulting.  They may think we’re saying, you obviously don’t know what the heck you’re doing, so I’m going to ask God to intervene!  If they’re not on the same wavelength in their faith-life, maybe it’s best to pray for them silently.

“God chastens those He loves”

Well, perhaps, but God also embraces, encourages and emboldens those He loves.  When somebody is going through a hard time, it’s best not to blame the victim.  Saying something like, I’m here if you need me is simple but welcome at a time like that.

And that rule of thumb we learned in grade school – when in doubt, leave it out – also applies to well-intended platitudes that may turn into sour grapes and hard feelings.  Being there during dark days is the best gift you can offer a friend. Showing up and being supportive, even if it’s to sit in silence and hold a hand, speaks volumes to those we love.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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