Ballard: A childhood lesson comes full circle

November 24, 2013 

I didn’t participate in writing something I am thankful for on Facebook each day in November. However, anything that makes us consciously pause and give thanks is certainly a worthy gesture. Giving thanks is something we need to do 365 days a year, not just in November and not just on Thanksgiving.

A long time ago, I realized the more gratitude I offer daily, the more I have to be grateful for. Once I realized this, my life changed for the good.

My parents taught us as small children to say “thank you” for everything we received. Whether it was a small piece of candy or a ride home from school, we always had to utter those two simple words or suffer the consequences. Just like any habit, being grateful is learned and has to be constantly practiced.

This year, I’ve learned even more about gratitude. I’ve had some health issues and have been reminded how fragile and fleeting life is. Sometimes we have to go through trials before we realize how important those two little words can be.

Every night when I lie down in bed and every day before I arise, I offer thanks for the many gifts, talents and blessings I’ve been given. I am blessed. That’s one thing I’m sure of and will never take for granted.

As parents, we attempt to pass on all the things that were instilled in us to raise our children “right,” as we Southerners call it. Most of us do our best to share the valuable knowledge we received from our parents and loved ones with our children. How many times during the years have we prodded our children to say the two words of gratitude? How many times have we urged them to do the right thing? How many times have we asked them to treat others as they would like to be treated?

When they mature, our only hope is that they live the life we taught them because we certainly can’t be with them each and every day. When they leave the nest, it’s not possible to watch over them daily. The old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” is very true.

Sometimes when we least expect it, we actually get to see the lessons we passed on to our grown children in action. For a parent, there’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing you’ve been successful with a child. Just the other day, I received a wonderful gift that came to me in a very unusual way. It involved our son, Blake, and how something we taught him as a small boy came full circle now that he’s a man.

Not long ago, a person posted a very negative comment about me under one of my Facebook posts. This is certainly not the first time this has happened -- and I’m quite sure it won’t be the last. Being in the public eye for a good bit of my life, my very tender skin has been forced to toughen up during the years.

Comments that used to devastate me when I was bullied as a child don’t consume me now. That’s not to say they still don’t hurt. It’s ironic that I can receive 100 good comments and just one bad comment and you already know which one stands out. That’s right -- the negative one. Words are very powerful whether they are used in a good or bad way.

“Mark Ballard makes me want to puke on a continuous basis!” a person wrote on my page. It caught my attention but because I didn’t even know this person, I chose not to waste any time on it. What did cross my mind is that sometimes we all say things impulsively and, by doing so, regretfully hurt someone else. But to actually take the time to think about something, type it in all capital letters and then press “post,” that takes it to a very different level.

Our son, Blake, happened upon the post and, without my knowledge, sent a private message to the person who posted it. Here is what Blake wrote:

“I don’t know you but I really don’t appreciate your recent Facebook comment about Mark Ballard (my father). He hasn’t done anything to you, not to mention that you obviously don’t know him. (You’re not even “friends” on Facebook!) Please don’t forget that YOU were/are ‘following’ him. No one forced you to do so. That’s your choice! After glancing at your profile, you seem to be a very religious/holy man and I’m pretty sure that Jesus would not have stooped to your disrespectful/hateful level in hopes of belittling another person. If Mark Ballard literally makes you so ill (to the point of vomiting) then I have a solution/remedy for you. Don’t follow Mark Ballard on Facebook! That said, the next time you’re considering posting a negative/unwarranted comment about a person you don’t even know, please take a quick second and ask yourself ... WWJD?”

When I found out about his private message, my eyes welled with tears but I also beamed with pride at the same time. Our son had handled this situation in a very mature way without judging or casting stones. He just stated the facts. He could have humiliated the person by posting them publicly as the person did to me, but he did the right thing and handled it in private.

On this Sunday before our national day of thanksgiving, I think we can all learn a lesson from Blake. Bullying, disrespect and cruelty should not be tolerated whether in person or via the Internet. On my very long list of things I’m grateful for today and every day, Blake is most certainly there. He gave me a gift that money can’t buy. He practiced the lessons he was taught as a child. To him, I want to say those two little, but very powerful, words: thank you!

More with Mark

• Join Mark from noon-5 p.m. today at the Mistletoe Market at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry. Mark will do a live stage presentation at noon. He’ll also have all his new holiday merchandise, new book of columns and comedy DVD on hand. For more information, visit www.mistletoe-market.com.

• Check out Mark’s website, www.markballard.com, for current projects, holiday merchandise, recipes, Mark’s T-shirts, prints, cards and his collectible porcelain plates.

• Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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