In a pickle

November 19, 2010

The phrase “in a pickle” has been around forever.  Baseball players used to use it when describing someone trapped between bases.  In sandlot ball we would play Pickle when there weren’t enough guys to form teams.  We also used to play pickle in the middle before monkey in the middle took it’s place.  (Same game, different name.)   Shakespeare uses it in The Tempest.  King Arthur was supposed to  have eaten pickled children as early as 1440, and apparently, Admiral Horatio Nelson met his end by being pickled in brandy.  (Those last three illustrations were found at So the phrase has been around  a while.

But for some funny reason, whenever I hear the words, in a pickle, I am reminded of the sixth grade.  Our school was doing a food drive for the poor in our community.  Although my family probably would have qualified to be a recipient of such generosity, I wanted to participate.  And I had an idea for a gift to the food drive that would call attention to my generosity as well as my mothers fine home-making skills.  I would bring a jar of her pickles.  They really were the best I had ever eaten, so I truly thought that this was a good idea. Shows how little I really knew in the sixth grade.   That particular year, when my mom was packing pickles, she had found a gallon jar (from pickled pigs feet, no doubt) that she put into service.  So not only was I taking the best pickles in the county, I was bringing a gallon of them.

I dropped the jar just inside the school door.  The pickle juice took all the finish off the floor, and the entire building smelled like pickles for a week, or, as it seemed at the time, the rest of my life.

What happened was, I wanted to do something good, and receive some kind of reward, or glory, for it.  I don’t know how different I was from most sixth grade boys, but I was at a new school and felt like a total nobody. I thought bringing a huge offering to the poor would make me a somebody.  Well, I was somebody all right.

In the sixth grade, I had not really gotten a grasp of Matthew 6: 3-4.  “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (NIV)

As a kid, I never really thought about doing good deeds in secret.  I wanted all the positive attention I could get.   Seeing how the first-person-personal pronoun has been used almost twenty times already in this post says there are still lessons for me to learn.  But slow as they go, the lessons are being learned.

They are being learned as I have become the frequent recipient of secret gifts.  Out of necessity we know some of our benefactors; but no one who has blessed us has done it out of a need to be noticed.  We have felt the outpouring of love and grace in ways we would never have imagined had we not traveled the road we are on.  Some have given out of their wealth, some out of their surplus, but the most, the biggest gifts have been given out of their poverty.  People have given up things they want, and in some cases things they need, in order to help us.  Mark 12:41-44 comes to mind when thinking of those who have blessed us.  And Humbled us.  And loved us.

So, regardless of the number of personal pronouns you see in this post, I am learning more about how to love others right now than I have at any other time in my life.  And I hope to start paying it forward (and backward) soon.  Without the smell and mess of broken jars.

I found the following image at



One Response to “In a pickle”

  1. Sue said

    Working in the 5th grade this year, I can attest to the fact that most 5th – 6th graders are more than happy to help others with the guidance of good teachers. “Let your light shine, shine and shine.”

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