Yesterday I had a heart-to-heart with one of my favorite 3rd graders who had just thrown a backpack at a woman holding a baby carrier. In her defense, she just has really poor aim, but I felt it was something I should probably address anyway. I walked away from the conversation feeling like she had a pretty good grasp of the situation, and that I had made it clear that throwing things isn’t the best idea.
I’m not sure when I’ll start consciously remembering how wrong I often am about these things.
This afternoon, I turned around to see the same kid throwing a cup full of something (cereal? peanut butter? It remains unclear.) at the wall of the snack area, allegedly trying to hit the garbage can but instead coming within centimeters of hitting another child.
When confronted, she looked at me with this stare that clearly conveyed that she was sure I was the crazy one, that throwing the cup was actually completely normal behavior. We then had the exact same conversation we’d had the day before, with the exception of a more immediate consequence–she was treated to a lesson in sweeping and taking care of the Club (which, come to think of it, she really should have paid me for…it was a great lesson.).
Yet, instead of doing the easy thing by spending five minutes sweeping up the mess that she herself had made, she decided instead to tell me how unfair the situation was and how she, in fact, wasn’t going to help at all because it wasn’t her responsibility, someone else is paid to clean up those kinds of messes.
And I thought, oh good. I’m being taught a lesson right now. I need to pay attention.
Because as much as I hate to admit it, I totally understood where she was coming from. I would MUCH rather let someone else clean up the messes that I’ve left behind. In the moment, it is significantly easier to begin something and walk away, to leave it for someone else to fix and deal with. The important part of that statement is, of course, in the moment. I don’t think I’ve ever looked back at a scenario that I left intentionally terrible and thought, “wow, I’m so proud of how I didn’t finish that, of how I had the worst attitude ever while walking away.”
Finishing well is important.
Whether that means revisiting a situation or conversation that there’s still hope for or following through wholeheartedly with a project that we aren’t super excited about anymore, seeing things through to the end is an important skill to have.
Think about it: If we only tried to perform to the best of our abilities in things that we absolutely one hundred percent were excited about, a lot of things would get left undone. And who would do all of the other things that we deemed unimportant or unnecessary?
At some point in time, we need to start living life with the realization that we have a responsibility to uphold–those messes that we’re leaving for other people? They’re ours, and we need to either not make the mess in the first place (a largely unrealistic expectation) or be willing to pick up a broom and get work done.