The Power of Suggestion

“White Socks – Part 2” mentioned cracks between the floorboards of Mr. Rufus Collins’ childhood home. That description reminded Dooly County businessman Lee Harris of a story told by the late James Peavy. It struck me as an amusing illustration of the power of suggestion.

Facts and fiction were often blended in the days when farmers swapped tales at country stores. This account involves two friends from that era. Both had a knack for helping people laugh.     

During James Peavy’s childhood, his pal Ray Howard came to visit and stayed overnight. As the sun went down, afternoon’s warmth gave way to freezing temperatures. The Peavy’s old house had big cracks between its floorboards and a tin top speckled with holes. It was sometimes colder indoors than out.

Bedtime came and the boys crawled under a dozen hand-stitched quilts. The blankets were so heavy James’ mother had to help them when they wanted to turn over. Despite the thick layering, Ray complained he was too cold to sleep.

 “I think a window is open,” said James. “Why don’t you get up and close it?” Ray felt his way around the dark room and let it down. He warmed up so much he soon threw the covers back, unaware the window had no panes. 

James Peavy was a masterful storyteller and Ray Howard’s wit was so dry it left you thirsting for more. He spoke slowly, kept a cigar perched in his mouth, and found humor in everyday events. A memorable example is when he went to buy a heater for his home.

The business owner asked Mr. Ray how many BTUs he needed. British Thermal Unit,   BTU, is the amount of heat needed to raise one gallon of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In case anyone is wondering, I had to look that up.

Mr. Ray shifted his cigar slightly and paused for a moment before responding. “I don’t know anything about BTUs,” he said in his South Georgia drawl. “What I need is a heater with enough BTUs to warm my wife’s B-U-T-T, which is about the size of a T-U-B.” 

Another example of the power of suggestion is something my father told me in childhood that his father told him. Papa Joiner’s advice was, “Never date a girl you’d be ashamed to marry.” 

That’s good counsel for boys, and just as solid for girls if you flip it around. It’s even appropriate for grownups, knowing we sometimes behave like children.

Speaking of boys and girls, one of the most rewarding suggestions I ever received came from a college friend, Paul White. He and Jane were taking a class together and went on a date, but friendship interfered with romance.

Paul thought Jane and I would be a good match and said I should ask her out. She was elated of course and here we are 51 years later. Paul grew up in Americus, but it’s been decades since we’ve had any contact. If anyone knows how to reach him, I’d like to thank Paul. Jane wants to have a word with him too. 

Some suggestions come indirectly in conversation or by example. Years ago a married couple was in my bank office trying to figure out a budget. It surprised me to find that despite substantial financial challenges they faithfully tithed.  

When I mentioned their giving, the husband said something that made a lasting impression. “We write our check to the church first thing every month,” he said. “If we wait until later the money might not be there.” 

I was supposed to be helping that couple, but maybe God brought them in for my benefit. Perhaps it was God’s way of suggesting I learn from their example. Giving the first and best part of our offerings isn’t just about money. It’s about time, talents, and commitment. And most importantly, it’s about attitude. As Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

James Peavy’s humorous tale is a delightful reminder of the power of suggestion. Closing that paneless window warmed Ray Howard so much he forgot about the cold. And sharing that story among friends surely warmed the hearts of both those fine gentlemen.

The warmth of a close friendship is probably impossible to measure, but I can’t say that with any degree of certainty. I don’t know anything about BTUs.             

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4 Responses to The Power of Suggestion

  1. Judy says:

    I had heard the Ray Howard story, but never knew what BTU meant. Thanks for information!


  2. Curtis Greer says:

    Another good’un Neil. Yes the Bible says to give of the 1st fruits, and
    to my Wife and I, that means to tithe on the amount BEFORE anything is
    taken out of the salary. p&B


  3. Ellen Hunsucker says:

    Loved this! Too bad the old country stores have gone the way of progress! Where do guys swap tales these days? Seems like a whole culture has died out and we’re not the better for it! As long as you keep the memories alive with your stories, I guess it will be ok!


  4. Terrell Hudson says:

    Mr Loren loved black pepper on lots of food …specially eggs! We were eating breakfast for supper one night at their house and he had found some coarse ground black pepper that he really enjoyed! He mentioned how good it was and just joking I said it was good but it looked like gnats have flocked to the eggs!
    He NEVER touched coarse grind again and Mrs Williams gave Alice the remaining pepper sometime later and we used it!
    The power of suggestion is STRONG!!


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