A Pitcher of Mud

By Colleen E. Hansen

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Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly (D&C 121:45).

“Sarah,” Mom called, “Janeen is here.” As Sarah started down the stairs, she ticked off plans in her mind. First I’ll show Janeen my new soccer ball, and then we’ll make jewelry with her bead set. Later we can watch that new video Mom bought. And tomorrow, Janeen will help me learn a new kick shot. It was going to be the best weekend ever!

Sarah paused. What if Janeen doesn’t like staying over at my house? Everyone wanted to be Janeen’s friend. She was really nice, and she was one of the best soccer players on the team.

Sarah forgot her worries as Janeen waved to her from the bottom of the stairs. “Come on up!” Sarah called.

The two girls laughed and chattered while they rearranged Sarah’s basket collection and strung beads. Then Mom put on the movie, which was even better than Sarah had expected it to be. Janeen laughed so hard that she spilled her popcorn.

When the movie was over, they went to the kitchen while Sarah’s mom fixed them ice-cream floats. Janeen gazed at the top cupboard and admired the elegant bowls and glasses that sat on the shelves. The most beautiful piece was a large pitcher.

“That crystal pitcher has been in my family for many years,” Mom explained. “My mother gave it to me on my wedding day.”

“We only use it for special occasions,” Sarah added.

When the girls finished their ice cream, it was time for bed. After Mom said good night and the girls went upstairs, Sarah whispered, “Janeen, are you sleepy?”

“Not at all!”

“Mom said she doesn’t mind if we talk until we get sleepy, as long as we’re quiet.”

“Great!” Janeen whispered. “Did I ever tell you the joke I heard from my big sister’s friend?”

As Janeen spoke, Sarah’s eyes grew large and her stomach started to feel strange, as if something she had eaten didn’t agree with her. The joke wasn’t really funny, and Janeen used words that Sarah knew were wrong to say. What should I do? she wondered. If I ask Janeen to stop talking like this, she might think I’m acting like a baby.

When Janeen finished her joke, she started to tell Sarah a story she’d heard at school. She had forgotten about being quiet and was talking right out loud, and Sarah knew that Heavenly Father didn’t want her to hear this story, either.

Her face grew hot, and by this time, there was a gigantic lump in her stomach. If I tell Janeen I don’t want to hear any more, she might get mad at me. Maybe she’ll even want to go home. After a few more words, though, Sarah couldn’t listen any longer.

“Janeen,” she interrupted, “I think we should stop talking about this kind of stuff, OK?”

Janeen grew quiet.

Sarah took a deep breath and rushed on, “My parents have told me I shouldn’t listen to that kind of story or use those words. And they don’t make me feel very good inside.”

Janeen was silent for a while. Then she said, “OK. They don’t make me feel good inside, either, really. You know, I think it’s neat that you talk about this kind of stuff with your mom and dad.”

Sarah let out her breath, and the lump in her stomach started to shrink.

The next morning after breakfast, Sarah’s mom suggested, “Why don’t you go outside for a game of soccer?”

With a whoop, the girls scrambled for the ball. They played hard. The sun was hot, and there were lots of tumbles as they practiced blocking shots. Finally Sarah stopped under a shade tree at the edge of the yard. “Whew! Time for a break!”

They raced for the back door.

“Mom, is there anything to drink?” Sarah called as the girls washed their hands.

“How about lemonade?”

Sarah and Janeen grinned at each other and opened the refrigerator.

They froze in place, their eyes glued to the second shelf.

Instead of ice-cold lemonade, Mom’s beautiful crystal pitcher was filled to the brim with smelly, black mud!

The girls turned around to find Mom standing behind them. Chuckling at the expression on their faces, she invited, “Sit down for a minute.”

As they sat at the table, Mom continued, “Girls, I’d like to talk to you about something. I guess you didn’t hear me coming upstairs last night. As I passed your bedroom, I heard you talking.”

Sarah stared at her mom, then glanced at Janeen, who was studying the floor. Janeen’s face was red, and Sarah knew that hers was too.

“Just as I was about to knock, you decided to stop, so I thought I’d speak to you this morning, instead.”

Seeing their stricken faces, Mom added gently, “Don’t worry—I’m not angry with you. But I would like to explain why Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to say or hear things like what you were talking about last night.

“Imagine yourself on a sizzling hot day in the summertime. You’ve been outside playing for a long time, and you’re thirsty.”

The girls nodded—that’s what had just happened!

“Now, you’ve come into the house and opened the refrigerator. A tall pitcher of cold lemonade is waiting for you, and you know that it’s going to taste great.” She smiled and brought out a frosty container of real lemonade and some glasses. “Did you know that, in a way, our minds are like a pitcher?”

Sarah and Janeen gave each other a puzzled look.

“First, remember that whenever we see or hear something, it goes into our minds, and it’s there for keeps. Now, when you saw the crystal pitcher last night, how did it look?”

“Beautiful!” Janeen exclaimed. “It was clean and sparkling.”

“If we allow ourselves to see or hear only good things, then our minds stay clean and pure, like lovely crystal. Our thoughts and ideas are uplifting to others around us, just like icy lemonade makes everyone happy on a hot day.

“Now,” Mom asked, her eyes twinkling, “what would you think if you opened the refrigerator and instead of lemonade, found the pitcher with mud?” She placed the pitcher in front of Janeen and Sarah.

“Yuck!” they chorused.

“Right!” Mom said, smiling. “Yuck is the word.” Then her face grew serious. “You know, if we put wrong messages and bad language into our minds, it’s like filling this container with mud—pretty soon we feel sick.”

Sarah remembered last night’s lump in her stomach and nodded.

Mom reached over to wipe a smudge of dust from Janeen’s face. “And if the ‘mud’ is on the inside, we can’t just take a cloth and scrub ourselves clean.”

The girls were silent awhile, thinking and staring at the now-not-so-pretty pitcher in front of them.

“So, if we fill our minds with good words and ideas, we’ll think about them and be happy. We can help our friends feel good, too, right?” Janeen asked, hesitantly.

“We won’t stay healthy inside if the things in our minds are harmful, just like we wouldn’t feel too great if we ate some mud!” Sarah added.

“That’s right.” Sarah’s mother agreed. “I think you understand very well.” She smiled again and poured each girl a big glass of the real lemonade before taking the other pitcher to clean it.

Soon Sarah and Janeen went outside to continue their game. As she was closing in to score a goal, Janeen stopped suddenly. “You know, the pitcher-of-mud idea your mom showed us is really cool. I never thought about why listening to some jokes makes me feel bad inside. I’m going to explain it to Kim the next time she tells me that kind of story.”

When it was almost time to take Janeen home, Mom called, “Girls, it’s a long ride to Janeen’s house. Would you like a drink before you leave?”

Sarah and Janeen looked at each other and grinned. “Lemonade, please,” they giggled, “and hold the mud!”

Photos by Greg Frei