My old pastor used to tell a story about a young couple who hosted Thanksgiving at their home soon after getting married. As the wife was cooking a beautiful ham the new groom stopped her and asked her why she didn’t cut the end off the ham. The wife was taken aback by such a strange request to which her young groom replied, “Any good cooks knows you always cut the end off the ham before you cook it.” The groom was too new to understand not everything you think should pass over your lips; It was too late to lasso the words back. The words were out and this began an argument that lasted right up until the first guest arrived.
The tension was obviously still present when they all sat down to eat. The table was strangely quiet as dinner began and the groom couldn’t contain himself. He wanted and needed to prove he was right. The groom turned to his mother and said, “Tell her, you have to cut the end of the ham off before you cook it!”
His mother agreed. “Well of course you do. Everyone knows that.”
The bride sank in her seat and simply stated, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that…. but why?”
Her mother-in-law was stumped. “Well you just do, it makes it taste better.”
The groom’s grandmother who was present at the table and quiet to this point started to giggle. “That’s not true. Where’d you get a crazy idea like that?” The grandmother said as she turned to her daughter.
“From you Momma. That’s how you’ve always done it.” The daughter respectfully replied.
Oh, Lord, when I first got married and I would cook a ham, I would cut the end off because the pan I had was too small. The ham wouldn’t fit in the pan unless I cut the end off. I couldn’t afford a new pan so I guess I just kept doing it.” The grandmother smiled and turned towards her grandson, the new groom. “and when your mother watched me cook she saw me cut the end off the ham and I guess she started doing it too.”
A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings deactivated their star running back, Adrian Peterson when it surfaced he was accused of beating his 4 year old son. Adrian admits he beat his son with a thin tree branch leaving welts, and cuts and bruises all over the child. This has been the dominant subject on sport talk radio this week and many callers have been in support of this type of discipline. The overwhelming defense has been, “My parents hit me with a switch and I turned out okay,” which I think is an incomplete argument. The psychological toll this type of discipline leaves is hard to erase. Just because it was done in the past doesn’t make it right.
Ex-Viking Chris Carter spoke about this in the pre-game show last Sunday. He said, “My Momma raised 7 kids on her own and she did the best she could but some of the things she did were wrong. Beating a child is wrong!” I could feel the emotion in Chris’ voice when he spoke. I could feel his struggle with saying the right thing while at the same time saying is mother was wrong. He was so right. It was wrong then and it is wrong today. Even more so is it wrong today because we have at our finger tips study after study that shows exactly what hitting a child with this force can do to the child emotionally and psychologically.
I understand why so many in the past felt that beating their children was a necessity. The belief was, especially for children of color, that beating them in to submission would teach them respect for their elders and those in authority. Many believed, “I will kill them with my own hands before I let the streets take my child.” I understand the history and the mentality behind such thinking but we must do better now that we know more. I understand this has deep deep roots in some cultures but we can no longer look the other way and offer up the other cheek of an innocent child.
After several years, the grandmother was able to afford a larger pan, but she continued to cut off the end of the ham because that is all she ever did when she cooked a ham. I wonder how much great ham was wasted clinging to tradition that makes no sense.