What’s in a word?

In 1937, Charles Addams drew his first entry for The New Yorker of the characters that would eventually come to be known as “The Addams Family” to the general populace.  A couple of decades later, a chance sighting in a bookstore of a collection of these great cartoon works of art sparked the idea of a TV series featuring the family.  Part of the deal was that Mr. Addams had to give names to each character, so he drew out each family member and wrote the name he chose along with a detailed description of their personality for the writers of the show to reference (below is a photo of the principal cast of the television series).  Mr. Addams often visited the set during filming of the TV series that ran from 1964-1966—a set that included some ancient weaponry and other oddities that were similar to the ones that could be found in his own personal collection at his home.  He had unusual interests, and his drawings were different than what most people would consider creating, so that made people thinks all sorts of things about him that were untrue.  Contrary to popular belief, Charles Addams loved children.  Even though they were 5-and-a-half and 8 years old when filming the pilot, the actors who played Wednesday and Pugsley have good memories of him being very kind and attentive to them, and those who knew him best say that he would have never included children in his drawings if he didn’t like them.  

John Astin, who played Gomez Addams that 1960s TV series, spoke in an interview on the DVD special features about what psychologists had written and discussed concerning the Addams Family as a family unit, “…while they’re odd on the outside, on the inside they are human beings, who care about other human beings.”  They may be incredibly weird by most standards, but they don’t seem to notice or be bothered by it.  In the first episode of the series, a truant officer named Mr. Hilliard comes to the Addams house because Pugsley and Wednesday have never been to school.  While walking around the house with Gomez, Mr. Hilliard encounters Grandmama and Uncle Fester throwing knives at a target on a statue.  Upon opening the door, Mr. Hilliard barely misses having a knife plunge right into him!  He runs out of the house screaming, and Grandmama asks Gomez, “What’s the matter with your friend?” while they all stand there confused at Mr. Hilliard’s behavior.  Later on when Gomez and Morticia are at the school speaking with some of the administrators, Morticia says, “Wasn’t that, that nice Mr. Hilliard?  He certainly is an odd one, isn’t he?  Why, do you know that he suddenly ran out of our house the other day?  Frightened by a simple game of darts!”  haha  

Everyone in the Addams Family is confident in who they are, and are unaffected by the negative opinions of those around them.  They don’t feel the need to impress or win/earn the admiration, affection, attention, or anything else from anyone they encounter.  In my point of view, they don’t feel the need to earn it because, in their mind, they already have it.  That, my friends, is the biggest take-away I get from the show.  

That word:  friend.  Strange things—words.  They can have the same general meaning, but have very different depths of meaning from one person to the next.  This came up in a conversation I had with someone recently.  To me, “friend” is an incredibly special word.  I caution those I meet who use that word in reference to me.  I tell them, “Be careful about using that word.  If you use that magic F word and call me your friend, you’re stuck.  For life.  And there’s no going back.”  I was in my late teens before people really started to call me their “friend,” and it was such a foreign concept to me.  I thought that it must be a very special thing, and never something to be used lightly.  The same with the words, “I love you.”  So I am never the first to call someone a “friend,” or the first to say, “I love you” to someone for fear of being seen as too forward, or making things awkward, or some other negative, nonsense thought.  I may instantly regard someone as my friend, and quickly develop genuine love toward someone (beyond loving them just because all life has value), but I am always afraid to express it until the other person does.

What are your thoughts about those words?  Perhaps we can all take a cue from the Addams family and see the people of the world as friends without even knowing them.  Consider everyone our friend, and not be afraid to express our love for them, whether they feel the same way or not.  Even in my kindergarten class, the lead teacher always uses the word “friend” rather than “classmate” or something like that when having the students work together, so why not have that child-like regard for each other even as adults?  After all, “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17a), and Jesus, Himself, said, “This is my commandment:  Love each other in the same way I have loved you,” (John 15:12).  

When I was in Japanese class in high school, we asked our teacher (who was from Japan) how to say “I love you” when it was close to Valentine’s Day.  She gave us a phrase to use (which she said really means “I like you”), but said that they don’t really feel the need to say things like that to each other; that you know how someone feels about you by the way they act when they are around you.  I don’t know if that is completely true, or if she was just saying that to discourage declarations of love from silly teenagers, but the concept is true all the same.  You can tell those who use “I love you” flippantly or as just something to say to people, and those who genuinely mean it.  Why be afraid to say something good that you truly feel?  It may be just what someone needs to hear that day, and Proverbs 18:4 says, “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”  Further evidence of this can also be found in Proverbs were it says, “Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction” (18:20).  Perhaps I have made too much out of something simple, and in my efforts to be liked and accepted, I have further alienated myself from those who would care… and made myself more awkward rather than less so.  Life is full of lessons, and we never stop learning.  I should have learned more from Steve Urkel about being myself (read that entry here), but who would have thought another great teacher would be macabre comic-strip-cartoon-turned-TV-sensation characters!  Just like them, you and I may be “creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky,” but we are perfect just the way we are, and who cares what anyone else thinks! The One Who created you says so, too! He loves you more than you can ever imagine, and nothing can keep you from His love for you (Romans 8:38-39)!  

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