WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Have you seen those cloth bracelets with the letters WWJD woven into them? It stands for What Would Jesus Do?
When I was a kid, the nuns used to say that to us in Sunday School. It was supposed to guide us into the highest moral choice.
However, whenever I see one of those bracelets, I don't usually think about high moral choices. I think about my mother.
One day, when I was in high school, my mother was fuming over a problem we were having with our neighbor. The divorced woman across the street from us was frequently entertaining a new beau. Her paramour drove a truck, an enormous semi that was easily bigger than our little ranch house. When he was in town, he would arrive at night and park his rig on the street, right across from our house, just yards away from my mother's bedroom window.
In the mornings, in anticipation of his departure, he would turn on the engine and allow the truck to warm up over the course of half an hour before taking his leave. Maybe that's how long their romantic good-bye took, I really don't know. But the fumes from his diesel engine spewed from the truck and enveloped our entire house, seeping in past locked windows and bolted doors.
We were sitting in the living room, one night, my mother, my boyfriend, and I, watching Johnny Carson, when we heard the familiar rumble, and that enormous steel rectangle slid across our picture window, filling it.
The driver turned his engine off right away -- he wasn't going anywhere until dawn. Nevertheless, the blood rose into Mum's face like mercury in a thermometer. No need to ask what was wrong. She was thinking about this ten-ton alarm clock lurking outside her bedroom. About that arrogant, vertical exhaust pipe that stood ready to inject its diesel venom into our home.
Both Mum and I were thinking that if Dad were still alive, he'd march right over there and let that S.O.B. know what he could do with that truck of his.
My boyfriend was no substitute for Dad, that's for sure. He found it amusing that Mum was so upset. As Mum glared out the window, my boyfriend smirked and said, "Well now, Mrs. Jaquith, what would Jesus do?"
Still looking out the window, and without missing a beat, Mum said, "Jesus'd let the air out of his tires."
We laughed, but she turned to us, and in all seriousness explained that letting some -- not all -- of the air out of his tires wouldn't hurt the tires, wouldn't hurt the driver or anyone else. But he would get the message that surely there are better places to park a semi for the night.
No more was said about this, but after I said goodnight to my boyfriend at the back door, it was many minutes before I heard his car engine start up.
The next morning, our house vibrated as usual, and we awoke to the familiar smell of exhaust fumes. Before I had a chance to look out the window and see what shape those tires were in, the truck was gone.
And, it never came back.
As the years have passed, I've often thought about what happened that night. I hope the truck wasn't damaged, and I hope nobody got hurt. At the time, it seemed ludicrous to imagine that Jesus would have handled the same situation with anything but patience and understanding.
But recently, I've been thinking about that unpleasantness in the temple with the moneychangers. Jesus overthrew their tables and poured out the changers' money, saying, "Make not my father's house a house of merchandise."
So now, whenever I come across that phrase, "What would Jesus do?" I think, "Jesus'd let the air out of his tires."