Think before you speak

First Posted: 12/25/2008

As a child, I was always told if you dont have anything good to say then dont say anything at all.
Needless to say, that tends to be easier said than done. The need to vent or complain about someone elses personality or habits is a tempting accessible way to alleviate stress at times. But its not respectable.
Ive never met a single person in my life who has never said anything ugly about a person until I recently met Barbara Mittman, 68, who retired from working at the L.H. Jones Resource Center under the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District (YVEDDI). As I interviewed a handful of the almost 40 people that showed up to honor her 39 years at the facility, I began to notice a familiarity in each persons statement about her.
Ive never heard her criticize anyone, each person seemed to repeat.
When it was mentioned by the first couple of people, I didnt think much of it, but as the afternoon continued so did that statement.
I was intrigued that so many people would say the same thing about one person she never uttered an ill word about a soul.
When I had a chance to finally sit down and talk with her, I had to ask her how she managed to keep her mouth shut.
Her answer was simple.
Theres no room in the world for ugly.
Those eight words were insightful. Mittman went on to explain that no one was perfect and everybody was working on something to improve themselves.
My mother had told me the same thing for years, but to hear it from someone whose friends and family could honestly say they never heard say bad things about others was impressive. It honestly left a footprint on my heart.
I was inspired at the will of someone who could see the beauty of people when they were often at their worst.
For almost 20 years, Mittman worked for the Community Services Block Grant Self-sufficiency program as a project coordinator, a position in which she gave families a helping hand to assist them with becoming self-sufficient. She helped people make that transition from Medicaid to health insurance and from welfare to well-paid jobs. In her line of work, it probably wasnt always easy to see the beauty in people, but she saw what people could become if they worked hard and didnt let their background or bad decisions hinder their future. She saw people grow and develop, she learned to see the best inside despite the worst that was visible.
I believe that its part of Gods plan that we will encounter people from whom we will learn and gain wisdom.
Our lives are often more than our own, they are filled with lessons that will inspire others.
I think everyone can take a page from Mittmans book and aim to see more in others than what our eyes see.
Erin C. Perkins is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at or 719-1952.

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