Remembering lessons learned long ago

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, June 12, 2021

I remember the first time I said a “dirty” word. Well, the first time of which I am aware.

I was riding the school bus and wound up on the back seat, a second-grader surrounded by junior high or high school kids.

One of them turned around to me and asked me to repeat a sound. Suspicious but clueless, I did. Then he asked me to repeat another sound, then put the two together. I did both.

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He and the other kids started laughing. I didn’t know why. It was a word I’d never heard before and therefore had no meaning to me whatsoever.

So I said it again. For the sake of illustration, let’s pretend the word was “Farley.”

“Say ‘Far.’” Far.

“Now say ‘Ley.’” Ley.

“Now say them together.”

Far-Ley. Farley. Farley-farley-farley. What’s so funny? FARLEY!

You get the idea.

When I got home, I walked into the kitchen where my mother was working on something and just asked, “Mom, what does ‘farley’ mean?”

I remember a slight pause before she continued with her work and asked me why I wanted to know. I explained what had just happened on the bus and that I didn’t understand why they were laughing at me for saying what they wanted me to say.

My sweet mother explained to me that it was an ugly word we don’t say, and those kids were just acting ugly by tricking me into saying it and laughed because they thought it funny when I said it.

And I said it a lot.

“But I didn’t know it was an ugly word!” I protested.

Mom assured me she knew that and that I was not in any trouble. Just don’t keep using the word now that I knew it was not a nice word.

In that moment I began to understand that some things are wrong, even if other people celebrate them. I began to understand that we can do wrong things in complete ignorance. I began to understand the importance of learning and not repeating wrongs once we are aware of them.

And I began to understand mercy — I wasn’t going to be punished — and grace. I’m pretty sure Mom gave me an after-school snack right about then.

All good lessons I obviously haven’t forgotten.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at