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I do not tweet. First of all, I don’t have a smart phone. Second, I don’t think that what I am doing or thinking at a moment’s notice is all that important for others to know. I do have an outlet for my thoughts—I give a homily at Mass, I write a weekly column in my church’s bulletin and as you are seeing right now, I write for this paper. That is enough for me and, I suspect, for my “public.”

The birds outside my window, do not have such reluctance to tweet. Some mornings they are incessant and I wonder how they don’t have sore throats as they make all that noise. And I wonder what it is they are communicating. Ornithologists (the people who study birds) tell us that birds chirp (or in the case of my neighborhood birds, shriek) to indicate that they “own” the territory they are vocalizing in, and the males are posturing to let the females know there is a healthy and willing male nearby.

I wish they could get it through their bird brains that they only need to announce this once or twice and then go about the business of eating worms or whatever else they had planned for the day. But, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet! (Read that fifty times over.)

Human tweeting can sometimes parallel the shrieking birds. People can type the same things over and over again, hoping to convince their followers of their beliefs and opinions. Even the out-loud tweeting that parents do sometimes is repetitive: e.g. “Stop that! Stop that! Stop that!” (also said fifty times over). That got me to thinking about how we teach our children to “tweet”. We instruct them: “Say ‘please’.” or “Did you say ‘thank you’?” We shape they ways in which they seek forgiveness, offer to help, and compliment others. But like birds, our children and grandchildren copy the songs of their elders.

So imagine that someone will follow you around tomorrow with a voice recorder. Everything you say will be recorded. Then it will be played back for your family and friends to listen to. If you knew that was going to happen, would you speak any differently? The truth is that you are being listened to each day by your family and friends.

While it may not be recorded, our speech is being heard by others. If we are quick to judge, gossip and condemn, it’s no wonder that this is the song the next generation will faithfully copy. If we ourselves say “thank you” a lot, and praise others, and offer our opinions in uplifting, rather than in disparaging ways, then that is the melody that the youngsters will most likely sing—unless they are infected with other tweets.

The next time you hear the birds outside your house doing their best to communicate, why not reflect on a phrase or two that you will repeat throughout the day? Then see how many times you can tweet this message out loud (or even online)and in how many different circumstances. This can be a beginning to countering the harsh sentiments being tweeted across our nation and our world these days.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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