I was ready.
In 1997 I lived in Texas where I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a missionary, I spent my time preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. At any given moment, I needed to be ready to share a profound thought usually expounding scripture.
I’ve always been a fan of adages and I collected quotes that I thought were short nuggets of profound wisdom before my mission. The more obscure the reference the better. By the time I left on my mission I had a library of rather exceptional maxims.
One treasured find came from the television series Northern Exposure. An episode involved a flinging machine (yeah, you read that right) and the moral lesson that came from the quest to build it. I thought, “What a great quote!” And then I waited to be able to use it. While on my mission the time had come. Or so I thought. It was my turn to leave a tender thought or wise word with the kind family that shared dinner with us.
The Naple family? Nelson family? Noland family? What was their name? It has been 16 years folks.
Anyway, the family seemed pretty awesome. Although I remember the mother had very round shoulders. I really wanted to try and straighten her shoulders like my mom always did to me. But I think bones would have cracked if I did so. And, you know, that would have been awkward. I refrained. But I did sit up straight every time I saw her. Not that her physique has any bearing on this particular story. It’s just what I remember.
Naples? Nunns? N-n-nnnn… Naaaa….Naaaa.
Surely they would appreciate my quote from the television show with a gospel spin. I delved in with my analogy prefacing it with the fact it came from a television show. “It’s not the thing you fling; it’s how you fling it.” I surmised.
I fully expected to be commended for my choice of one witty quote. They looked at me. I think the mom actually rolled her eyes. They were not impressed with my quote at all. I picked up on the shift of tone and tried to back pedal my way out. My ramblings sunk me deeper.
Naegle! The Naegles. I think. Maybe.
It’s been sixteen years and I still remember that uncomfortable experience. That’s when I learned, you gotta know your audience.
I thought of it the other day and wondered about the actual quote that caused such a ruckus. It’s on YouTube. Of course it’s on YouTube. Turns out I’ve been quoting it wrong. “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself.” I wonder if that would have made a difference with the Naegles?