Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Put a lid on it! -- jcarolek

When I was 15, I learned my lesson about knowing when and how to throw my weight around. At 5’ 4 ½” tall, I had long enjoyed towering over my four younger brothers, though I had never been able to look my 5’ 7” older sister in the eye. So it was that I was all-powerful when speaking to my brothers.

My family operated by THE RULES. We had rules for everything and by golly, I knew the rules and enjoyed enforcing them. On a particular Saturday, my brother, then 13, made a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He poured himself a glass of milk and trotted off to enjoy his “snack.” Always the good monitor, I informed him that he had left the lid off the jelly jar.

He looked at me and continued to eat. OK, I was a cool sister. I let him eat. When he was done, he cleaned his dish and headed out of the kitchen.

“Dan, you didn’t put the lid on the jelly jar.” I reminded him.

He continued away rather than toward that uncapped jelly jar. He was being obstinate and that made me move into full gear. I strode over to him, put my hand on his collar, and started to “lead” him to the jelly jar.

With a single movement, my brother, now closer to 5’ 8” removed my hand from his collar in a motion that found me lying prone on the kitchen floor, glasses broken. He walked out of the kitchen, jelly jar still uncovered.

I did not cry. I did not tell on him. I picked myself up and put the lid on the jelly jar and set about repairing my glasses. I never spoke about it again. But I learned that day to look at enforcing the rules differently. I had no business following him around while he tried to enjoy his snack. Had I said nothing, he would likely have realized he left the lid off and replaced it. It was BECAUSE I made it my business that he got his back up. I see many people, good people, people who know the rules and have the right to call others on the rules when they see them being violated. Unfortunately, the delivery of the message is equally important as the message being delivered.

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