“THE STORY YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ”
by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
A few weeks ago I mentioned a joke I told in my first sermon as a full-time pastor. When I sat down to write about it [an article I have yet to complete], I started thinking about aspects of writing humor based on personal history. How much should be disguised for the sake of other people? How much can I exaggerate?
I tend to avoid clearly identifying people, places and institutions. I don't have a set of hard and fast rules to guide the process. Sometimes I follow the example of the old FBI TV program: “Names have been changed [or more often, just omitted] to protect the innocent”. Other times, details have been altered to protect the guilty. It's also prudent to avoid identifying people who may be prone to violence or litigation. Most often, though, I just don't want to embarrass anyone. Which means that I don't bother altering details concerning the exploits my brother, who is nearly shame-proof. He has a “colorful” past, and since nothing he's done ever seems to embarrass him, nothing I say can, either. [Which doesn't stop me from trying occasionally]
It's true that sometimes I've “embellished” a story a bit for comedic effect. I did actually stagger into a hospital's emergency room, Lois steadying me with one hand while carrying a wastepaper basket in the other hand in case I threw up; I didn't actually vomit in front of everyone there, nor did I really hear a child sing “Weebles wobble but they don't fall down”. These articles, after all, are intended as amusement; they're not my memoirs. In fact, my memory is poor enough that if I wrote strictly from recall, my stories would have enough blank spots to look like redacted government files about Area 51. So I have no qualms about altering details until the content is about as reliable as a batch of emails released to a senate investigatory committee.
In other words, what you're reading is more like an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond than Sixty Minutes.
I've decided that when I tell tales about my pastoring days, I'm going to think of my place of service as Goodold Baptist Church, of Smalltown, Indiana. A few of you know its real name, but since a heaping helping of that exaggeration and embellishment I mentioned will probably be involved, I think this is for the best. Not that anyone there is prone to violence or litigation.