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ASK THE EXPERTS

Speak out at your own risk

POSTED: September 23, 2009 4:00 a.m.

I don’t want to compare myself to Congressman Joe Wilson, but I understand a thing or two about speaking out in public venues.

  

My first time speaking out during someone else’s remarks was at the West End Baptist Church in Atlanta. The pastor had begun his sermon when I, in my strong 3-year-old voice said, “Hush.”

  

My mother immediately proceeded to remove me from the church. As she clutched me near her, she whispered in my ear, “Don’t you ever tell me to hush in church.”

  

In an effort to clarify things, I blurted out, “Not you, mama, I want the preacher to hush.”

  

This happened as we were about 20 feet from the pulpit on a speedy retreat to the nearest exit door.

  

It was a few years later before I decided to speak out again. Unfortunately, it was also in church, albeit a different one.

  

The preacher was delivering a real stem-winder on a very popular subject of my boyhood: Why people didn’t come to church on Sunday night.

  

He was driving home his crowning point of the sermon when I chimed in.

  

“I’ll tell you why people don’t come to church on Sunday night, it’s because they’re home watching Ed, Hoss and Little Joe,” the pastor said tapping his finger on the pulpit as he mentioned the names.

  

Ed? We, who were devotees of Bonanza, the Sunday night story of life on the beautiful Ponderosa ranch, knew that the patriarch of the Cartwright family was Ben. I felt an obligation to correct this obvious mistake.

  

“That’s Ben, preacher,” I said.

  

My mother grabbed me by the ear and escorted me out of the church. Folks were chuckling all over the church and the preacher had just lost all of the steam for an earnest message about why folks were missing out on the opportunity to go to church on Sunday night.

  

There are some people who have mastered the art of speaking out in public.

  

In the era of Gov. Gene Talmadge, there were the Haggard boys from over near Danielsville. They would shout out things to help ol’ Gene move his speech along.

  

Gene, who could rattle on for hours, would sometimes get hung up on an issue. The Haggard brothers, who would climb up in trees on the courthouse grounds or wherever Gene was speaking, jumped in to help him.

  

“What about that $3 car tag, Gene?” one of the Haggard’s would shout.

  

“I’m a-comin’ to that,” Gene would respond and start talking about the evils of an auto license plate that cost a whopping $3, which was a lot during the Great Depression.

  

Another person accomplished at speaking out is Sister Ruby Brawner of Antioch Baptist Church in Gainesville.

  

Ruby, who is one of the good Lord’s most faithful servants, uses the word “truly” as an affirmation to a speaker.

  

If the preacher says something about God loving us or wanting us to behave better, Ruby offers up a truly, as in you are truly correct.

  

Sometimes, she has to restrain herself. 

  

I sat by her at a funeral for a mutual friend. Instead of a truly, Ruby just gave a good strong “uh-huh” and a couple of softly spoken Amens.

  

Sitting beside a professional like Ruby, you can learn a few good pointers…and I did.

  

Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is harrisblackwood@gmail.com.

 

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