There are so many things that tempt us away from wise choices. The world today absolves us of bad decisions, offering government bailouts or corporate forgiveness. The implication is that it is okay to be foolish. I know from experience that the public schools will gladly look the other way or whitewash unacceptable behavior of students and teachers. This is not loving forgiveness but rather a practice destined to lead people to be unprepared for harsher consequences. Personal wisdom is often gained through trial and error.
I am wiser for the mistakes I have made – certainly more so if I have paid some consequence for those mistakes. It saddens me to see parents trying to protect their children from consequences. We made that mistake and have witnessed the harm we’ve done in the long run.
I recently watched Stranger than Fiction. There is a scene (spoiler coming so skip to next paragraph if you don’t want glimpse of ending) in which a young boy rides his bicycle into the street directly in front of a bus. Our hero leaps to save him, pushing the boy out of the way but sacrificing himself with the effort. There is a glimpse of the boy be reassured that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Maybe I’m hard-hearted but I think riding your bicycle into traffic, in front of an oncoming bus no less, is “doing something wrong.”
The following morning I was enjoying breakfast in a restaurant. I was bemused by a child (maybe 3 years old) running relatively unsupervised around the buffet area. Two women, presumably mother and aunt, took turns corralling back to their seating area. The child was wildly entertained by the game. All of this might be innocuous enough, but as part of the sport the child was playing with the spoons and bowls that were kept at about his eye-level. After a while the waitstaff gave up on putting the spoons and bowls back in order. I am fairly confident that after the family left things were “put right” but probably not washed. Pity the diners who came for lunch and unwittingly had the soup.
I remember all too well the painful balance of letting my young ‘uns entertain themselves while maintain a modicum of control. The clear amusement demonstrated by the two women, their indulgence of the game, their indifference to the work created for the waitstaff all build the message for the young “Do whatever you want. You’re so cute!” At some point does that message change? Or does this boy grow into a man who has entitlement issues?
Maybe I’ve had too much time on my hands this week. For myself, I will continue my search for wisdom and I will continue my effort to share that which I have gained. Maybe shouting “Listen to me! I have important things to tell you!”