I am laughing after reading a friend's facebook post. Her 7th grade daughter was instructed to prepare potpies for dinner. These are the frozen variety that come in small tinfoil pans and they bake for an hour. Her mother told her to poke holes in the tops and put them on a cookie sheet. Well, she did what her mom literally said.
She poked holes in the tops of all the cardboard boxes and put them on the cookie sheets.
I can picture this scenario in my head, but I can also relate. When I was in the 7th grade I had a very similar moment, but I didn't have it pasted on facebook for everyone to read.
I was babysitting for a family while the parents worked on Saturday. I babysat for this family every weekend and it was an ordinary day. The mother had instructed me to warm up leftover pizza for lunch. All I had to do was throw it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. She did leave one tiny detail out. It would have been beneficial to know you needed to remove the pizza from the takeout box.
Being a naive 12 year old, I literally did what I was told. I put the pizza box in the preheated oven and set the timer. We sat down to watch some Saturday morning cartoons. As you probably guessed, we didn't really need the timer.
Smoke filled the house.
Fire alarms screamed.
I managed enough courage to shut off the stove and remove the billowing box into the backyard. We had to open all the windows and air out the house. We spent the rest of the day playing in the grass looking for clovers and watching the clouds flit by.
Everyone named this episode of my life "the great pizza event". No one forgot it and somebody always specifically told me to remove the packaging before baking. After the smoke cleared, people were able to joke about it. You would never guess that in my adult life I would be able to roll out some pretty tasty homemade pizzas that don't require a box.
The sad thing, however, was I didn't think twice about what I did. I did what I was told. I should have reasoned that cardboard doesn't belong in an oven, but I didn't. My 12 year old brain malfunctioned. I blindly and stupidly caused an event that could of had tragic consequences.
I wonder how many ridiculous and stupid actions people have done, because they just did exactly what they were told and didn't fully comprehend the command. Imagine all the confusion and mistakes we could avoid if we only asked questions or explained ourselves better. How many problems at work are caused by broken lines of communication? How many marriages suffer arguments because of unclear messages? I could make a lengthy list of examples, but I won't bore you. Communication has always worked two ways.
I tell my children that there are no dumb questions. I guess the events of two 7th graders illustrate the adage perfectly. People assume all the time. We are too embarrassed to clarify instructions or ask questions. Sometimes, we are put in a situation beyond our education and don't know any better. We secretly hope that the leader will direct us in the right direction.
There are all kinds of leaders. Parents to children, teachers to students, bosses to employees, senators to citizens, and the list goes on and on. I googled the definition of leader. The meaning can range from a new plant shoot to a commander. Guiding, leading, and conducting were all adjectives used in the description. Are you a leader? Who is your leader?
Ponder what you really know. I learn something new everyday and that is important to remember. At times, I don't understand people's actions and I am sure I puzzle others at times with my own actions. I know my parents will second that. It's easy to judge. I can look back on my mistakes and rationalize that I didn't know any better. I need to remember we all grow and learn from our past.
A certain 7th grade girl learned a lesson tonight and a family has gained a new inside joke about potpies. This experience will help her in life and I know from experience that she probably won't make the same mistake again. She will definitely think out of the box from now on.