Company we keep truly influences us

By Judy Brandon: Local columnist

Each time I am drive down Commerce Street, my thoughts turn to my very old Marshall Junior High School days.

Now it is called Marshall Middle School but when I was there, it was 7th, 8th and 9th graders. Also I have noticed that some of the trees are now gone and I can remember standing out under those trees at lunch time.

Back then, Johnnie’s store was right on the premises, the funeral home was located across the street and the Safeway grocery store stood at the end of Mitchell. Also on the east side were what we called “barracks” that were used as classrooms. Even though those relics are long gone, Marshall still reminds me of school experiences that involved much more than academics.

One memory I have of my days at Marshall is “the thought for the day.” Principal Bill McDaniel’s policy was to give school wide announcements every day over the intercom. When the last bell rang and students were seated in the classrooms for first period, we would hear a “click” from the intercom.

Mr. McDaniel came on: “Good Morning,” and then school announcements were read. These were reminders of events and other things that everyone needed to know. At the very end of his announcements, came the thought for the day.

Students read the thought for the day. One day in April of my eighth grade year, I was summoned to the office. The secretary asked me if I would read the thought for the day for the next morning’s announcements.

Without hesitation I said, “Yes!” That night I was so nervous. I even planned what I would wear to give the thought for the day. No one would actually see me, but I believed that the reader of the thought for the day should be dressed in Sunday best.

The next morning, I reported to Mr. McDaniel’s office. After the bell rang, he turned gave the announcements. At the end, he turned to give the thought for the day.

For me, it was a defining moment; for just a few short minutes, Mr. McDaniel had the ear of the entire student body and I would part of it.

Mr. McDaniel said, “Now our thought for the day will be given by Judy Scott.” With racing heart and shaking hands, I held the piece of paper with my lines.

I am sure that no one to this day remembers what the thought for the day was but I still do.

It said: “Those who lie down with dogs will rise up with fleas!” Ben Franklin? I can’t remember but on that day I had given the entire student body words of wisdom to think about for that day.

As a self-conscious adolescent, I had no clue that old adage was really something profound. The saying just meant that all of us are truly influenced by those we keep company with.

Yet, looking back over the scope of my lifetime experiences, I have come to understand that is a mighty truth in itself.

I have witnessed and resisted for myself at times the tug and allure of dishonesty.

I have seen people’s lives ruined over covetousness and materialism.

I have witnessed whole families torn apart by wicked trickery and underhanded schemes.

In all instances, people have been pulled into the labyrinth of dishonesty by those bad influences around them.

I don’t think the writer was being particularly religious when he wrote those words about dogs and fleas.

But in a spiritual sense, that adage can be a warning to believers. We have to have discernment to know how to be in the midst of the world without being of the world.