If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all

If you‘ve watched Bambi, then you know about the fuzzy little rabbit named Thumper whose infamous line is above. He’s unfortunately not the type of thumper I’m talking about, but his message still rings true. This past week I’ve personally ran into more Bible thumpers than I can remember.

As I walked to class one morning last week, I saw an elderly gentleman standing on the street corner by the Science Building. I don’t typically connotate people standing on corners with Godliness. He handed me a small abridged version of the King James Bible.

I took it, looked at it and promptly threw it in the trash at the first convenient receptacle I could find, just like everyone else before and after me was doing. It made me wonder why this old guy would choose to hand out propaganda to a bunch of apathetic college students; didn’t he have anything better to do?

Then I became a little more irate when walking up to the Business Building. I was confronted on either side of the clock tower by two more thumpers. There was no avoiding them. I was again handed an abridged copy of the King James Bible, and again I began to look for a trash can. Then something in me snapped. I turned around and handed the book back to one of the men. I wanted to say something snarky, but instead a little rabbit popped up on my right shoulder and stopped me. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Instead I asked the man, “Why don’t you guys find a better way to volunteer? There are soup kitchens, animal shelters and many, many other places in Big Rapids alone where your time might actually make society better. Also, they’d probably like whatever money you spent on those Bibles. I’m just going to throw this one away just like I did with the first one, so you can have it back. Thanks.”

I don’t need a religion to tell me how to treat people or that something I’m doing is wrong. I had parents and family for that. I don’t need to be distracted as I drive down the road by a line of protestors holding signs that say “abortions kill children.” It only makes me want to stand on the other side of the street with a sign that says “omelets kill chickens.” I don’t need to have thumpers running around with signs that say “Jesus loves you.” How do they know? Because a book full of folktales told them? Following that logic just means that signs like “Zeus loves women” or “Loki loves mischief” are just as correct.

Most of the major lessons, moral adjudications and principles I learned from several books, not just one. One of my favorite stories, and one that had a great effect, was the story called “Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes.” It chronicles the true life tale of Sadako Sasaki who developed leukemia due to radiation poisoning caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

In Japanese tradition, it is believed anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes would be granted one wish by the gods. Sadako’s wish was to live. Sadako worked tirelessly every day she was in the hospital, folding origami cranes out of any paper she could find. She was only able to fold 644 before she succumbed to her illness and died. Her friends and family came together and folded the remaining cranes and buried them with her.

To this day, children still fold paper cranes for Sadako, which have become a symbol of peace and love. In elementary school, our class folded cranes to be sent to Japan for Obon Day to be placed at Sadako’s memorial. Obon Day honors the spirits of the ancestors. On the base of Sadako’s memorial statue is an inscription that reads “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.”

I fold little cranes out of bubble gum wrappers and sometimes dollar bills if I’m leaving a tip. I do it because it puts a smile on someone’s face without trying to convert them.

I fold cranes to remind myself that life can be short, and that peace and love are universally accessible if we chose them to be. I didn’t learn that in the Bible. I was taught that by my parents, friends, family and Sadako.


As someone non religious I share your annoyance of being handed pamphlets/bibles/religous propoganda knowing full well you’re going to throw it away. As any good agnostic I’ve already read the bible and found most of it….well pretty silly. Talking snakes, impossible boats full of all the worlds animals, an angry God punishing all womankind with intense labor pains for Eve disobeying him, zombie Jesus….I think I’d be more shocked to learn the bible was real than professional wrestling. That being said I can’t fault the “thumpers” for trying to save us heathens. Think about it this way….if you had a way of knowing and were totally convinced a specific stranger was going to die in a car accident if they drove that day would you at least try to save them and keep them out of a car no matter how insane they thought you were? Now imagine the car accident was eternity in a fiery pit…a fate much worse than a mere deadly car accident, no? Wouldn’t you be a pretty crummy person for not trying to warn them? Now it could be the thumpers are just trying to pad their stats with God, but I prefer to think they really care and are trying to save me and others. I try to live my own life by just treating people with kindness and respect whether I agree with them and their ideals or not. So nowadays when I’m handed a bible or pamphlet I smile and say thanks and appreciate the fact that they’re trying to do good. I probably won’t read it but every now and again that stuff is good for a laugh or two before it finds its way into the recycle bin at home!

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