A Spittin’ image . . !


THE doctor said to a new father, “You have a cute baby.” “I bet you say that to all the new parents,” smiled the proud daddy. “No,” he replied, “just to those whose babies really are good-looking.” “So what do you say to the others?” I say, “He’s the spittin’ image of you.” I wonder whether they taught that to him in his medical college!

With identical twins, it’s easy to see that they are the “spittin’ image” of each other. Actually, that term “spittin’ image” stems from an old misunderstanding itself. Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus stories, explained that when an American slave seemed to be saying, “spittin’ image,” he or she was actually saying, “spirit and image,” as: “‘He’s the spi’it ‘n’ image of his daddy.” It meant more than they merely looked alike. Spirit and image – alike, inside and out.

And what makes it even more interesting is the ancient truth from the monk Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), who said, “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” Or put another way, we become the spi’it ‘n’ image of that which we hold dear. We are shaped by that which we admire most, and by the people we love most.

It works like this: Those who admire success may become “the image of success.” Those who admire ambition will, to even a casual observer, look ambitious, perhaps even driven. Those who admire and love the gentle saints of their faith will, more than likely, remind others of those same saints in their attitudes, words and actions.

Day by day, we become the spi’it ‘n’ image of the people we befriend, admire and love. I wonder who you are the spittin’ image of? Are you the spittin’ image of your good dad, or that wicked uncle of yours? Whose life do you model yours on? Someone you admired no doubt, but who is it you admire?

Even as I write this I think of our children. Most of them model their lives round their parents. That’s why you’ll quite often find that an alcoholic had an alcoholic father. That a grumpy mother has grumpy sons and daughters. I met a priest who stammered and he told me that his father stammered. “So what?” I asked, “Are you blaming him for your stammer?”

“Not in the way you mean,” he said kindly, “but when I was small my mother passed away and it was from my father I learnt to talk. So I stammer like him.” I am not sure how scientifically correct the priest was, but it’s scary isn’t it?

How we are, our children will be likewise. So even as we decide whom to model our lives by, also let us learn to live lives that our good, virtuous and honest, so that, when others see the spittin’ image of you in your children, it will be a good spirit and clean image..!


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