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Friday, February 26, 2021

My First Failure


The meditation for the First Friday of Lent was on Jesus' fall for the first time.  You probably never thought of this before, but Jesus was probably used to failing.  Think of His disciples never under-
standing what He was talking about.  Think of the Pharisees criticizing everything He said and did.
 
His arrest, trial, and crucifixion were not a surprise to Him.  Yes, He was God but His life experiences had hardened Him to withstand His end. 

Like us.  Our disappointments and failures prepare us for our future experiences.

My first failure happened in sixth grade.  I'm 11 years old.  In Oakland Avenue Elementary School in Methuen, MA, we had safety lines that we walked home in.  The oldest kids were "patrol leaders."  Depending on how many older kids there were, they surrounded all the other kids who walked two by two.  My line had two patrol leaders.  When I was old enough, I was in front, because I lived on a street near the end of Oakland Avenue.  There was one other patrol leader who hovered either on the outside middle or dropped back to be last in line, to keep the line orderly.  She also stood in the middle of the street with her arm raised to stop traffic while the line crossed the street.
Exactly like this picture, except our patrol belts were white and we had a badge on it.  Anyway, in the last grade of elementary school, I was eleven years old.  All the patrol leaders were called to a meeting where the teacher announced that a "captain" was chosen by the teachers and they were going to announce who it was.  The announcement was prefaced with the attributes that were considered in the choice of choosing the captain.  This person was a good student, dependable, honest, etc.

I immediately gasped, thinking that they were talking about me.  After all, I had all these qualities.  I also had mixed feelings about it.  I was shy and didn't want to be the center of attention. But I also was very proud and really deep down wanted to hear these accolades about myself.

Then the ball dropped.  The name Ellen Jane Smutlak was chosen.  I was shocked!  It wasn't me?  How could that be?  The fact that I wasn't chosen, impressed upon me how other people saw me.  I wasn't the center of their universe like I was at home.  I wasn't considered the best.

WOW.

Here I am, 74 years old and still remember the sting of that impression.

It left such a mark that some other impressions are remembered:

1.  Randy Medauer said in soto voce, "her mother makes her clothes!"  I recall wondering how could that be?  Stores make people's clothes, don't they?  BUT!  even at that young age of 11, I knew Randy was saying that because she was jealous.

2.  Ellen Jane Smutlak was a "goody two-shoes."  Ellen Jane and I didn't live near each other.  So we didn't play together.  She did live near my grandmother and we did play together, now and then.  I remember asking her if I could ride her bike and she said no.  I found that odd; I'd let her ride my bike if it were at my grandmother's, why wouldn't she let me ride hers?  I remember badgering her about it but she stuck to her guns, "NO!"  Finally, she said, "My father said not to let anyone ride my bike."  
      I couldn't believe it.  Why would a parent say that?  In my neighborhood, we'd rode each others' bikes.  We played a racing game of it. I don't think that as a parent, myself, I ever told my kids not to let others ride their bikes.  I never thought of it.  

3.  When my name wasn't chosen, deep inside I was glad.  I didn't want to be the center of attention and that's true today.  I hate everyone looking at me.  Surprise?  I teach.  I'm a lector.  I have acted.  I know I am the center of attention in those roles but the focus is not on me, myself.  I have a job to do--get that message across, not myself.  You understand?

4.  Upon reflection, God once again had treated me with velvet gloves.  He is so very gentle with me.  My first failure was not a naked exposure in front of my peers.  It was an interior recognition that because I was inadequate I wasn't chosen "patrol leader captain."  I didn't have the personality nor temperament.

Thanks be to God.

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