Two Words I’ll Never Use Again

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I remember trying to be thoughtful, earnest, and specific as a boy.

That got laughed out of me quick. 

Regrettably, I endured a long two-and-a-half years in Jacksonville, FL. Your experience may well vary, and you’re free to elaborate on your own blog. Mine was terrible. There was no more salient time in my life where I felt my otherness, difference, and loneliness more terribly than I did then.

One Sunday School morning, I remember sitting in class as the usual retinue of prayer requests were offered: personal health, family health, and travel.

There was this broad prayer they would offer for those traveling, neatly summed up in “traveling mercies” – a compact, vague, throwaway potency seemingly imparted from the prayers of church elders before to those beneath, until the nuances of its meaning had long dissipated, leaving only the faded ink of a stamp to one’s prayer toward someone and anyone traveling.

I was 11.

It came to be my turn to pray this instance, so I did my best to adopt this country vernacular while still being at least specific and thoughtful. Not being a stranger to polysyllabic words and expressions, I figured I could work with a few.

Never have I been more wrong.

As it came time to pray for “Ian’s family, for traveling mercies . . .”  – another couplet of words sharpened into view.

I recalled a billboard from a law firm, offering various services for all manner of unexpected woes, one of which was vehicular. There was a clumsy way I could have expressed my next thought, sure, but this phrase would tie off the bow more neatly, crisp.

“Lord, I pray for Ian’s family, for traveling mercies, that there won’t be any Auto Fatalities . . .”

Before I could finish my supplication to The Most High, a murmur of snickering interrupted the reverence, followed soon by outright laughing, both my peers and teacher alike. I don’t remember how I finished. I probably did, but I wasn’t privy to what was all that funny.

Auto fatalities.

This is where The Life Autistic is funny, but only in retrospect. It wasn’t then. There’s no one out there who taps your shoulder and says “This diction is inappropriately elevated to your audience’s intellect and education, thus, the result is predictably unfavorable. Just stick with the traveling mercies and call it a day.” At least not at age 11.

That one followed me. To what extent I was asked, I was reminded to ensure we had prayed against auto fatalities. 

Thankfully, Ian’s family made it safe and back.

I don’t recall praying in Sunday School there again.


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