Monkey See, Monkey Do


Yes, we humans are so advanced–way more advanced than monkeys.  Monkeys like to, well, monkey around by imitating behaviors they observe in other animals or even humans.  “Monkey see, monkey do” is the highly scientific description of this behavior.  How silly is that behavior? Don’t laugh too hard because humans have a monkey on their backs; we behave in just the same way.

The concept of “Monkey see, monkey do” is simply imitation.  The observer witnesses a specific behavior and then attempts to duplicate it.  “Monkey see, monkey do” is probably the first game you ever played even if you don’t remember it.  Your parent or some loving relative held you in a position where you got a good look at his face and then he, GASP, stuck his tongue out at you.  And your response?  Why you stuck your little ole tongue out right back.

Youngsters imitating the behavior of adults can be quite amusing.  A little girl will totter around with her tiny feet in her mother’s high heels.  A little boy might push his play lawnmower around after his dad who is mowing the yard.  But the behavior is not quite so amusing if it is negative.  Ralphie learned that lesson in “A Christmas Story” when he repeated some rather colorful language that he’d heard dear old dad spew.  Mmm!  That bar of soap tasted mighty fine–NOT!

As they grow, children naturally imitate the behavior they observe around them.  This situation may annoy an older sibling whom the young child imitates.  The annoyance may come out as an exasperated demand that the little brother or sister quit being a “copycat.”  Parents may also not be pleased if their offspring pick up on and then imitate their bad habits.  The little darlings are likely to be admonished to “do as I say and not as I do.”

But humans simply do not outgrow the “monkey see, monkey do” behavior.  It just rises to a different level in adulthood.  Imitation at this stage of life is typically of the keeping up with the Joneses variety.  If the neighbors put in a pool, why we have to have one too.  If your buddy buys a new truck, shouldn’t you do the same?

Think that this imitation behavior is an uncommon and limited occurrence?  Well, pull your head up out of the sand.  Just this past week a designer sold out of a particular dress within 24 hours.  The dress became a hot potato when Meghan Markle a/k/a Prince Harry’s girlfriend (possibly fiancee depending on the tabloid you read) wore it to the opening of the Invictus Games.  While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, I sincerely doubt that Ms. Markle was as concerned about what the general public thought of her dress as she was about what Prince Harry thought about it.

Imitation is, in the abstract, neither a good nor a bad thing.  The key is the type of behavior being imitated.  Imitating a positive behavior gets a thumbs up while imitating a negative behavior gets a thumbs down. An even better way to assess the imitation is to consider WHO is being imitated.  Imitating Charles Manson is pretty likely to be a bad thing while imitating Mother Theresa is fairly likely to be a good thing.

But these determinations require one to think before acting.  We can’t mindlessly stick our tongues out just because we see whoever happens to be standing in front of us is doing so.  If the person is an M.D. who is trying to address your sore throat, then following his lead to stick out your tongue is a good thing.  If the person is a bratty child who is trying to get your goat, then perhaps imitating his behavior is not the best course of action.

Imitating behavior takes on added significance when it comes to one’s faith because actions speak louder than words.  Christians are taught to imitate good behavior and not evil behavior.  (3 John 1:11).  And we are given a literally perfect example to imitate, Christ.  But our imitation of Him is not of the “Monkey see, monkey do” variety.  We consciously choose that we want to exhibit good behavior and turn to look at the ideal guide for behavior to imitate.

We are not monkeys, and our behavior should reflect a higher order of thinking.  Let’s not just see and do as a monkey would.  Instead, let’s use our advanced brains to see, think about and then do the appropriate action whether or not it imitates what we have seen.  Let’s imitate the Maker of the monkeys and not just the monkeys or the humans He has created.

Just WONDER-ing:  Do you imitate anyone?  If so, who?  Why do you imitate him?







“They Say It’s Your Birthday”

Celebrating a birthday like I did earlier this week?  You might think you are special, but it really isn’t YOUR big day because an average of 15 million people in the world celebrate a birthday each day.  Other than what you might receive for this momentous annual event, do you every really stop to think about birthdays?  Let’s unwrap the packaging of birthdays and see what we find.

A birthday is the day each year where your entry into the world is celebrated. And what fond memories do you have of your arrival?  None, that’s what.  You are whooping it up over an event of which you have no recollection.  Even if you did recall it, that journey through the birth canal might have been pretty traumatic and best forgotten.

It makes sense to celebrate a wedding anniversary.  You have vivid memories of that event which was likely a very joyous one.  Your loved ones were present, you looked smashing in your wedding finery, and a good time was had by all at the reception.  But a birthday?  How joyous was that event for you?  You were pushed out of the comfort and safety of the womb, made your debut stark naked and may have been smacked so that you would cry..  Participants in the delivery were worn out and possibly blood splattered.  And we commemorate those conditions?

Ecclesiastes 3:2 tells us that there is a time to be born and a time to die.  A birthday is the time to be born.  The most popular time to be born is in the month of August with September coming in second in the popularity contest. The most common day for a birthday in the United States is September 16th, which makes sense when you consider that this means conception likely took place on Christmas.  Yes, that Christmas gift just kept on giving. Christmas is about the birth of a baby, so it is fitting that celebrating that baby’s arrival should result in another baby on the way.

And your birthday just wouldn’t be the same without all the trappings.  How would you feel about celebrating a birthday without the receipt of any cards, without having a birthday cake and without anyone singing “Happy Birthday?”  Why 58% of all cards sold are birthday cards.  The birthday boy and the economy both count on birthday cards being purchased to mark a birthday.  “Happy Birthday” is the most recognized song in the English language.  Why not?  Everyone has a birthday and has heard that song; they have either sung it or had it sung to them.

What a cake has to do with a baby’s birth is beyond me.  Having delivered two children of my own, I can attest that giving birth was no piece of cake for either the deliverer or the deliveree.  But what’s a celebration without food? You can eat veggies any day,  but a birthday is special, so sweets and calories are permitted–even encouraged–to celebrate it.

Yes, today is your birthday.  Well, perhaps not yours, but somebody’s birthday is today.  In fact, several million someone’s have a birthday today.  That means every day is a day to celebrate.  Regardless of how it all began, the fact that you or someone you love is still alive and kicking is reason to kick up your heels.   To the celebrants, I suggest, as Marie Antoinette may have, “let them eat cake.”  Just don’t lose your head in the celebration.

Just WONDER-ing:  Do you do anything special or unusual to celebrate your birthday?



Touched Or Touching?

An old AT&T commercial urged people to “reach out, reach out and touch someone.”  While a thoughtful phone call might be touching for the recipient, actual touching is a touchier subject.  An unwanted touch may give rise to claims of having been inappropriately touched.   Unfortunately, our society seems to be focused on negative touch and out of touch with the value of positive touch.

Touch is the first sense that a human acquires.  Don’t believe it?  Well, then you have never been around a wailing baby who miraculously quiets as soon as his mother picks him up.  Her touch is soothing and comforting. Nevertheless, the reaction to touch changes as the baby grows up.  Parents of small children often hear a squabbling offspring demand of a sibling, “Don’t touch me!”  At this point the exasperated parent is likely to threaten an unwanted touching of the child’s posterior if the discord does not immediately cease.

Parents today are forced to educate their children about inappropriate touching starting at a young age.  Such training is as essential to a child’s safety and well-being as learning not to cross a street without first looking both ways.  That such training is required is consistently reinforced by regular news items about inappropriate touching.  And the saddest part is that the toucher is usually someone who is in a position where such behavior would not be anticipated, i.e., a sports team coach, a teacher, a relative.

Because of all the negativity about improper touching, the accepted mantra for social interaction these days is the title of a song by the Georgia Satellites–“Keep Your Hands To Yourself.”  We have become touch phobic and shrink from physical contact.  Our resulting physical standoffishness from others precludes some very positive benefits from occurring.

Research has established that we feel more connected to a person if he physically touches us.  That’s one reason you may feel close to immediate family members.  Hugging or putting a hand on someone adds a physical dimension to the emotional bond, and people are typically more comfortable in touching a relative.  And what a difference physical touching adds to a romantic relationship.  There’s definitely a connection with someone whose touch makes your stomach turn flips, your heart beat faster, and your legs feel wobbly.

According to researchers, touch is the best way to comfort someone.  This conclusion is certainly borne out by a crying baby who quiets upon by being picked up.  In times of sorrow or grief, words may fail.  A hug, a pat on the shoulder or a squeeze of one’s hand is much more effective and often more desired in such circumstances.  In my work as an adoption attorney, I freely dispense hugs to those in emotional distress or pain.  Often I am able to detect a lessening of tension from the recipient in reaction to my touch.

The power of a loving touch is incredible as was clearly evidenced in a recent case I handled.  My clients had agreed to adopt a baby who was going through drug withdrawal after birth.  The baby was in severe pain, receiving morphine, and being fed through a tube.  Try as they might, the NICU nurses couldn’t get the baby to take a bottle.  When the adoptive mother first had access to the baby, she lovingly held him.  And, to the surprise of the NICU nurses, the new mother was able to get the baby to take a bottle on her initial visit to the NICU.

Just like anything else, touch can be used in a good way or a bad way.  Humans are social creatures and physical interaction with others has benefits such as connectivity and comfort.  In an effort to avoid being touched in a negative way, many today are depriving themselves of the positive effects of a touching touch.  While inappropriate touching is to be avoided, we should make an effort to reach out and touch someone–literally–in a caring way.

Just Wondering–When has a physical touch had a positive impact on you?


Humor–The Silver Lining In The Hurricane Cloud

It’s hard to find much to laugh about in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and with Hurricanes Irma and Jose swirling about threatening destruction. But there’s always a silver lining in any cloud, even if that cloud is a huge, dangerous storm such as a hurricane.  In fact, some of my best memories of past hurricanes and tropical storms are humorous ones. Let’s forget the lack of electricity, AC and hot food I experienced and share a chuckle about the (now) funny storm-related adventures.

“You deserve a break today.”  Boy did I ever!  So, I did it.  I got up and got away to McDonald’s.  A hurricane had knocked out our electricity one sweltering August.  With no power, I was off from work and stuck at home with four kids–four IRRITABLE kids.  They were bored without TV and computers and let me know it in no uncertain terms.  It was only 9:00 a.m., and they were already whining and carrying on about how hot it was.

That’s when I had the brilliant idea to take them to McDonald’s.  No, we didn’t go for hotcakes, fries or even burgers.  No sirree!  I took them to McDonald’s because the restaurant had power.  I bought the kids OJ and some treats and happily read a newspaper from cover to cover for as long as I dared occupy a booth in the establishment.  Favorite trip to McDonald’s–EVER!!!!

A MOO-ving Experience.  The pictures of destruction are all too familiar. Fallen trees, downed power lines, roofless houses, and beached boats all come to mind when one thinks of a post-storm landscape.  Nevertheless, the most vivid image which comes to mind for me is a cow.  Say what?

My husband and I were taking a much needed vacation in gorgeous St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.  Unfortunately, this vacation occurred during August–prime hurricane season.  While we were spared suffering through a hurricane, we did have our vacation rudely interrupted by Tropical Storm Debbie.  This weather event put a crimp in our sightseeing because a curfew was imposed when the storm was bearing down on the Caribbean island.

While stuck in our resort villa, what to our wondering eyes should appear but a broken free bovine outside our windows.  The storm had apparently blown down the fence imprisoning Bessie, and she had decided to go see what tourists looked like.  The power was out in our resort, so there was no television to entertain us.  That’s OK, we were thoroughly entertained watching Bessie explore the resort grounds and savor the sweet freedom the storm had brought her.

Hurricane Hash.  As a parent, you seize teachable moments whenever you can find them even if that moment is in the midst of a natural disaster.  When our area was without power for about a week following Hurricane Ivan, the National Guard made an appearance and set up a local distribution point to give out bottled water.  Although we were without electricity, we did have running water and a desire to assist those less fortunate than our family.  Off my husband and I went to the fairgrounds with one of our teens in tow to volunteer with distribution efforts.

And what did our Erin learn from this experience?  Did she learn about disaster relief efforts?  What people’s basic needs were following a horrible storm?  How the National Guard is utilized in times of civilian emergencies?  Well, maybe.  But what she learned most was all about MRE’s.

Yes, the National Guard had brought a supply of MRE’s which were offered to citizens in need of food.  Erin was fascinated by these rations and insisted that she wanted to try one.  Ever had an MRE?  If not, count yourself fortunate. They are field rations used by the military which must by regulation contain 1,200 calories in a meal.  Although the acronym stands for Meals, Ready to Eat, Erin’s MRE dining experience made her fully understand why they are also referred to as Meals, Rejected by Everyone.  It’s a safe bet that now, as an adult, she won’t stock up on MRE’s when she hears that a hurricane may be approaching.  She’d prefer canned hash over an MRE any day.

Hurricanes are no laughing matter.  But getting through a hurricane and its aftermath might be easier with laughter to grease the way.  Some memories from a hurricane’s strike may be negative and painful.  Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining, and the big cloud of a hurricane always has something to make one smile at some point.  This humorous lining may not make the hurricane go away, but it will make the hurricane experience more tolerable and will provide fodder for hurricane stories in the future.

Just WONDER-ing:  What funny memories do you have from experiencing a hurricane or tropical storm? Please share them!