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New Straitsville, Ohio is one hot place. It was a mining town when my husband’s Irish ancestors settled there in 1871, and plenty of jobs were available. But over time, the miners became disgruntled with their wages. In 1884, some of them sent lit oil-soaked timbers in coat carts down the mine shafts. That’ll teach the mine owners, they thought. Let them do without their mines for a few days while their property is on fire. Then they’ll increase our wages.
What the miners didn’t realize was the coal in the mines would keep burning — and burning.
The mines tunneled underneath the town, and residents soon discovered they could cook eggs on the metal tops of wells and pump up water hot enough to use to make coffee. The mines are still burning to this day, with no miners ever being able to return to them. According to a local resident, there are places in the road even now where snow will melt upon impact, even in the coldest weather.
Perhaps the moral to this story is to think ahead before acting. That is, consider what will be the long-term effects of a hasty decision. Psychologists tell us, though, that we have a big problem as humans: the results of pleasurable behavior done now often outweigh the effects of unpleasant results later. For example, eating ice cream is an immediately pleasurable act; gaining weight and developing serious health problems is a distant, unpleasant result.
But the Bible tells us to think before we act, getting the knowledge we need to make wise decisions (Proverbs 13:16). It also says we shouldn’t be “rash with our mouth,” especially not letting our “heart utter hastily before God” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Yet, how many of us shoot our mouths off in fits of anger, not considering what trouble we might get in as a result?
Counting to 10 before speaking or acting can help. Some of us need to count even more. That way we can keep from getting into hot water or even in a hot place.
Donna Crowe is a minister’s wife.