One of my favorite life lessons is about accountability. We all screw up sometimes but owning up to it is a whole nother thing.
My Lesson in Accountability
I was a good kid. Yea, I teased and tormented my sister until she cried in horror, but overall I did my homework and chores, obeyed my parents and went to church (okay I went to church to get my Missalette for school on Mondays-another story).
Attending catholic grammar school one quickly understood two things about nuns. They loved God, and they would smack you silly. Back then, these women wore full habits and carried pointers they wielded better than Darth Vader. What child wouldn’t be scared? That fear kept me on the straight and narrow until about the 5th grade when I found myself untangling rosary beads after school. I guess it was about that time I began to believe I had my own will.
I wasn’t alone – my bff who I’m referring to in this blog as #51, was standing beside me untangling. The first of many untanglings with her.
By the way #51 stands for 51 years – #51 is a chapter of my life not a verse — one I’ll save for another post.
By the time #51 and I were in the sixth grade, our class had become so unruly, our sweet lay-teacher quit. But before exiting our principal moved our class adjacent to her office. She could literally hear everything going on in our classroom and became the enforcer.
The Science Lesson
We were asked to read from our science books at our desks. That day the lesson was about speaking and creating sound and in the paragraph it suggested you put your hand on your throat and read out loud to feel the vibration.
Although I was well aware that we were specifically told to read quietly to ourselves, I just couldn’t help myself. The next thing I knew my hand was at my throat, and I was making noise. The teacher was off her chair screaming.
“Stop talking!” she yelled
By this time, the devil in me knew I had the attention of my classmates and that day, like many others, I decided to take my ‘will’ for a spin.
“I wasn’t talking. It says to hold your throat and read aloud.” I replied smugly.
“Stop it! Stop it!” she was totally off the chart.
Everyone was giggling. The show was on. I was in my element.
Then the door burst open and in flew, the principal, Sr Christine. She wore soft soled shoes and always seemed to be flying or hovering just above the surface as she moved. This time was no different. With her black vail flying behind she was down the aisle in a flash and had the offender out of her seat by her hair. Ouch.
But she had the wrong offender.
One Row Over
#51 was sitting one row over and a few seats back. When I saw Sr. Christine coming, my heart sunk. Here it came – the beating of the year. I closed my eyes and readied myself. I heard the sound and my eyes popped open. There stood #51 bravely accepting a slap in the face for my sin. I was stunned.
I didn’t say a word. No one did.
I should have spoken up. Not only was #51 my bff (at that time she was #4), but I really knew better. I let her take it for me. I basically just lied by not saying anything. Later, I learned to call that lying by omission.
There was absolutely no harm done to our friendship. At the time our wills were so strong we thought we were Joan of Arc teen martyrs. Our crusade? To take down Sr. Christine.
While sitting at the dinner table that night, the phone rang as it normally would with Sr. Christine on the other end recanting the day’s antics. Only when my mother hung up the phone her face wasn’t amused, it was a little sad.
She sighed, sat down and told the family who was on the phone and why. I looked down at my supper and knew in the pit of my stomach I was wrong. Her face said it all. Normally, she’d scold me with a smirk, but not today.
“You lied? You let #51 get in trouble at school because of something you did?”
Back then there was no ‘I guess’ or ‘Yea’ answers – just yes or no. I answered yes, but I wasn’t sure what I had done that was so wrong. So I got in trouble at school? Sr. Christine called. All not firsts, but this time there was a deeper lesson.
“Today you saved your ass instead of being grown up enough to own your mistake. You were dishonest. I’m disappointed.”
That was enough. Disappointed. I crushed her.
I’d love to say, this lesson was a one and done, but my ‘will’ was just starting to grow so it took another time or two to get this lesson.
About 3 y ears later, there was this time in gym class….