Last night I was helping my son with some homework. He was working on an essay about The Giver (Lois Lowry). In the essay, Connor wrote about how people are unique. About how it is precisely this uniqueness in each of us that makes the world a better, more intestesting place. In case you are not familiar with the book, it is set in a future, “utopian” society. Individuality has been taken away from the members of this society. There are no colors, there is no personal freedom, and there is no love. In this world-view, personal freedom means mistakes. In this “utopia,” there are no mistakes. My son’s argument was that while mistakes can be bad, they are also what help us to learn. And it is how we handle these mistakes, these difficult times, that shape us into the people we are to become. He is so right.
I have made many mistakes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make me any smarter than the average bear. Sure, I’ve learned from many of them, but I wonder: when will I learn to stop making them! Isn’t once enough – per topic, at least?
I’ve always told my kids to listen to their conscience. Remember Jiminy Cricket? Seriously, we all have that inner voice that helps us make decisions, tells us right from wrong. Why is it that sometimes the voice is so hard to hear? Maybe it’s because life isn’t black or white. There are so many shades of gray…so many possible choices, sets of consequences, good and bad outcomes, and everything in between. How then, do we know we are making the “right” decision every time a situation presents itself?
Maybe I can still use Jiminy Cricket’s famous song from Pinocchio with my 5 year-old:
I'm no fool, no sirree!
I'm gonna live to be 103
I play safe for you and me
'Cause I'm no fool!
Not so much for my tween and teenage boys.
I think as we get older, the voice becomes clearer – louder. Our heart chimes in, our mind speaks up, and maybe, just maybe, we listen. As a teen, I was still trying to figure out who I was, and I disregarded that voice like a stranger calling out for a taxi. Who cares? Not my concern. Even in my twenties and early thirties, that voice was difficult to hear over the “Mom!” and “What’s for dinner?” calls from various rooms in our expanding household.
Here in my late 30s, I am realizing that the voice in my head is my own. It is the voice of an intelligent, grown woman who has learned from her mistakes, who understands right from wrong and who believes in herself and her abilities.
I'd like to think I have no more excuses. But I guess it's important for even me to realize that I haven't made my last mistake...not yet. I am wiser, yes. But, as long as I'm alive, I'm still learning.
Now, how’s about that Root Beer Float for lunch…?