December 11, 2019

When I talk to people, or write about experience, I usually think about my Uncle Buddy Plumley.  He’s been in heaven for over twenty years, but I still think of  his famous statement about experience.  He added a little twist to the statement.  He often would say, “Experience is the best way to learn something, but it sure can be expensive sometimes!”

The last conversation I had with Uncle Buddy, just a few days before he died, he talked at length to me about life’s experiences.  He talked to me about many mistakes he had made in his lifetime.  Then he said, “I’d give anything to be able to life my life over again, only if I knew at a young age what I’ve learned as I became an old man.”

I said, “Yes, Uncle Buddy, I wish I could, too.  But none of us can re-live our lives.  But the good thing about our experiences, whether bad or good, is that no doubt other people can learn from them.”

I’ve read of many people who recited the quote, “That with age, comes wisdom.”

A young newspaper reporter was once interviewing a very successful and older businessman.  She asked him how he became so successful. He told her, “By not making stupid mistakes.”  Then she asked, “How did you learn how to not make stupid mistakes?”  He said, “By making stupid mistakes.”

I marveled at watching my three children learn how to walk.  They would fall down over and over again.  Sometimes they would get frustrated and cry.  Sandra or I would help them get up and encourage them to try again.  And eventually they all learned how to walk!  Yes, they suffered some bruises while learning to walk, but they kept trying until they succeeded.

Life is that way with everything we do. We have to experience disappointment sometimes.

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes was “You can learn a lesson by carrying a cat by the tail that you can’t learn any other way.”  So true.  I learned that very lesson myself when I was a little child.

A similar quote that says basically the same thing is actually an old Yiddish proverb.  It goes, “Every generation has to learn for itself that the stove is hot.”  And yes, I learned that lesson, too.

When my brother David and I were about six and seven years old (I was the older) we were going to the pond at our Granddaddy Jay and Grandmother Mae Sinclair’s pond.  We were going fishing.  Both grandparents had told us over and over to not be going to the pond barefooted.  But that day we were barefooted.  The pond had tall weeds around it.  About the time we got to the pond, David got snake bit.  He started screaming with pain and fell to the ground holding his ankle.  It wasn’t far back to the house and I picked up my brother and put him on my shoulder and ran as fast as I could back to the house.

By the time I got to the house my grandparents were already in the front yard.  They heard David yelling and knew something was wrong.  I told Granddaddy that David had been bitten by a snake.  Granddaddy laid David down on the ground and took out his pocket knife and cut an X  shaped slash on David’s ankle at the wound site.  Then Granddaddy Jay got on his knees and sucked the poison out of David’s ankle. Grandmother Mae ran and got the bucket of kerosene and put it on David’s ankle.  Then Granddaddy carried David in the house and Grandmother Mae wrapped a rag around David’s ankle.  Granddaddy Jay said, ” I think you’ll be alright, David, the snake didn’t get a good bite on your ankle.

Well, the next day, David’s ankle was better.  The swelling had gone down and the pain was gone.  But it sure was a scary experience. Although I was not the one bitten by the snake, I sure learned a lesson from that experience.  David nor I ever did go to that pond again without shoes or boots on our feet.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people could learn from other people’s experiences?  I’ve heard many people who said they were educated at the University of Hard Knocks.  That’s that expensive way of learning that Uncle Buddy so often spoke about.

The Bible is full of stories of people‘s experiences.  And we are supposed to learn from them.

One of my favorite stories is a quote from King David.  It’s located in Psalms 37:25.  King David said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist Church, taught that one of the ways that we interpreted Bible scripture was through experience.

What have you learned in Life? What have you learned from reading the Bible, by reading of things that happened to other people?  Life is full of great lessons. Learn and grow from them.

God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley