To Err is Human

Failure is horrible. Right?

Remember what it was like the first time you failed, and failed miserably? How did that affect who you are today? Did you change the way you approached something, how you dealt with situations in later years, did it make you re-think how you handled a task, or even your responses to someone?

I am of the firm belief that failure teaches us. First and foremost, it teaches us humility. Something that our society, and a new generation of young people don't necessarily have much of now days. We will be surely facing a group of young people, many of whom will be completely deflated, as they face the first time they weren't awarded for 'showing up'. Living under the grand delusion that they are so unique, they will eventually become cynical beings who learned too late in their lives that even though we are all unique, wonderful characters in our own right, we really aren't that much different from our fellow man. No sparkly, shiny 'happily ever after' in sight, they will miss the teachable moments. They will miss out on the upside of failure, the ability to learn something new.

Edison, Ford, and Einstein were blissful failures at many points in their lives. Those failures of their own making ensured that we had new understandings, deeper meanings, and a better quality of life. I do not make these things up. Look up the real history behind these men, you will find that (and is usually the tale we tell our grade school children who struggle with math) Einstein failed math in grade school ~ miserably. The difference in he and others?  They had the ability to look beyond the failure, press onward, hope that there might be some other way to accomplish what was needed to succeed.

Missing too, is the opportunity to reflect on past errors. There's a camaraderie with parents when they share their tales of parenting horrors. "Been there, done that" is almost dismissive. Assuring one another that being human, making an error, learning how to correct our past failings, it brings us closer together as people. You are not alone....

When our parents were growing up, some of their parents imparted the past failures of their lives so that they would not have to replicate the same mistake. Alas, much as in human nature, children do not always heed their parents' cautionary tales of mistakes. They, in turn, suffer many of the same failures, or worse, create even more issues that were not there to begin with. No matter what we do, inevitably, our children will forge their own path in this world, making some of the same mistakes along the way. It is our responsibility to be there. Not to pick them up every time, but to re-assure them that they are still valuable, productive members of society, and that this is just a temporary set back, NOT the end of the world.

Think about a given trade or career. A world class chef will tell you that there were numerous failed attempts at dishes that they are now renowned for. An engineer learns, not only from his own mistakes made, but studying previous mistakes made by others. A successful businessman will tell you that they studied other's mistakes, as well as their own, in order to 'build a better widget'.

Failure teaches us to become more industrious, 'think outside of the box', manage our time better, become better stewards in society, and above all, allows us to be human. When something doesn't go 'our way', we don't need to have a melt down, nor do we have to beat ourselves up (although, most likely, many of us will do one of those things at one point or another). It allows us to empathize with others, letting them know that they are not alone in their daily dilemma. It brings us together, allows us to care, makes us more human, and gives us the opportunity to allow ourselves to recover.

So, let your kid fail now, when they're young. Allow them for those moments of disappointment in themselves. Assure them that it is part of the learning process. They will become more well-rounded, clearer thinking adults when they have to face those demons in later years.

As Alexander Pope once wrote: "To err is human; to forgive, Divine".

Isn't it nice to think that we are modeling the concept of our Maker, who, upon seeing our faults, still loves us, no matter what?  With that, we can move on to be better, wiser souls.

Santa Lives in Sun City

Labor Day ~ food stuffs to make, things to grill, and me, without any of it readily available. I've been cleaning the house and doing laundry for 3 hours. It's time for my escape. My son gives me the opportunity, and offers me the opening, requesting ribs and sausages for the grill. I willingly comply with the request, packing my purse, armed with a phone and a debit card.

A ten minute drive to the local grocery store, music blaring, windows rolled down (the air conditioner in the car doesn't work), as the automatic transmission slips grudgingly with each gear. I am free of the housework that begs to be completed, even if it is only for a short respite. 

As I begin my trek into the store, my mind whirls around the family finances. I won't be able to buy the ribs that my son wants, they're much too expensive for us. Maybe I can find a few pieces of meat on sale, ones that might 'do the trick' and I can always use the chicken in the freezer. I muddle around in my mind's eye what our meal will look like. Fresh corn, a couple of kabobs with red meat, a package of sausages, all on sale, are what our celebratory meal will be. It's expensive, even on sale, but we don't get the chance to spend time together and eat leisurely on a regular basis.

My heart begins to feel weighed down by the burdens of my world. I begin trudging back to the soda aisle to pick up our afternoon beverages. My face must have looked grim for certain, and then, he showed up.

Out of nowhere, a man was standing next to me. Older, with a white beard and a smile on his face. He looked like any other gentleman that could be wandering in the store. Nothing terribly special in his appearance. Nothing, except his eyes that were peering through a set of glasses. They were a piercing blue, and they were within a foot of my own.

He was leaning in toward me. Putting a hand on my shoulder, he cheerily exclaimed "Smile!"

Taken aback, I took one step away, breathed deep, and tried to put on my best smile for the nice old man.

"Of course, I should smile." I responded half-heartedly. My breathe barely pushing out my response in an audible tone.

"No! No, no, no! That will not do! I mean, you should smile! It's a beautiful day. There is so much that you and I can smile about. So much!" Grinning ear to ear, he patted my back, and held out his hand, as though to point me in the direction that I would be walking in.

"Oh, you're right." I had a tried and true response. One that I use when I need to remind myself that I'm not infirmed, one that puts the point home that I am capable, if I chose to be.

"I'm upright, breathing, and on the right side of the green." My smile put a twang of happiness that really wasn't quite there into my pat response.

"No my dear girl. That's not what I mean." He had to have seen the puzzled look on my face when he was trying to correct me.

"Sweetheart, there is so much that we can smile about. We are both here, standing in a place, able to make a purchase. We are here for others, getting things that will make them smile. If you think about it, there isn't a day that goes by that you don't make someone else happy, make them smile." The warmth of his voice was like a hug from my daddy.

"I am simply here to remind you that you should be happy, you should smile. Think of every day as having a little bit of Christmas in it. There's always something magical that happens, if you look for it." His grin, grown full, depicted that of a soul that was truly happy.  His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples, how merry......

I stared at him, looking into his eyes, and felt a rush of warmth come over my heart. In return for his words of encouragement, I smiled. This time, genuinely, a big smile. My voice trembled a bit, overcome with a bit of emotion that snuck up inside of me, and I whispered a 'thank you' to him.
 I turned to say something more, and he was gone.

Walking away, my heart filled with hope. The kind of hope that you get around the holidays. Hope that encourages. Promises of better things, and feelings that come when you think there's a chance that your situation will turn around, sooner than later. Tears welled up and fell silently on either cheek.

Picking up my last bits of items, I made my way to the check out line. I kept looking for 'him'. The older gentleman was no where to be seen. The cashier was pleasant, and nothing else remarkable occurred on my way out. I even waited a moment in the parking lot, thinking that I could catch just one more glimpse of him, but I didn't.

Driving home, I realized that Santa lives in Sun City Center. Maybe he was looking for me, maybe it was a chance meeting. Either way, he's sharing his message of hope, reminding whomever he meets, that even on Labor Day, we can celebrate the grateful heart of Christmas. And just to make sure, we can smile.