Mess Up? Then "Fess" Up
Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )
A Yom Kippur story for the family.
We all make mistakes - but, what should we do next? Admit it. One of the main points of Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) is to admit our mistakes to the people we might have harmed (and to God) and ask for forgiveness. By admitting it if we've done wrong, we'll feel better about ourselves, and others will feel better about us too.
In our story, a kid discovers what it takes to correct a mistake.
"See you in a few days," Amy's mother waved to her, as she hurriedly got ready to leave for her business trip. "I'm sure you'll help your father while he's watching you, just like you helped me to get ready," she grinned, wheeling her suitcase out the door.
Amy weakly waved back and tried to muster a smile. It wasn't easy - not only because she was gong to miss her mom - which she was - but because of her secret...
It happened the night before. Her mom, as she always was before these trips, was super stressed and busy.
"Amy, I need your help," she'd said, holding out a big basket. "I need this laundry for my trip. Can you do me a favor and wash, dry and pack it for me?"
Amy had been very busy at the time playing her favorite video game and really didn't feel like stopping to do laundry. She was especially miffed when her mom had added that she had to do it in two loads - whites and colors separately.
"Okaaay," she'd sighed and unhappily left her virtual-video paradise for the much less exotic environment of their laundry room.
That's when she got her great idea. Why couldn't she at least cut the time of this boring project in half by washing all the clothes together? There was certainly enough room in their big washing machine. Just to make sure it all got clean, Amy turned the temperature up to its highest setting. True, her mom had told her to use only the lukewarm setting, but it probably didn't make a difference.
Well ... it sure did make a difference! When she dragged herself away from the screen half an hour later, Amy discovered her mom's white shirts had become a muddy pink and much of her colored stuff looked kind of funny too.
She'd dried it - also on the highest setting - despite her mom's instructions, hoping the heat would make the stains go away. But they didn't and the only way the clothes looked different was that they seemed a little shrunk.
Panicking, Amy rushed to fold and pack all the stuff before her mom could come around and notice, making sure to tuck it under the other stuff that her mother had already packed.
Fortunately, the ploy had worked and now her mom had just driven off none the wiser! Amy sat down at her video screen and put on one of her best games, but she just couldn't get into it. She told herself she should be relieved - her mother hadn't noticed her mistake so far and maybe she wouldn't notice at all. And even if she did, she wouldn't be back for several days, by which time even if she got angry, she probably would have cooled off.
But Amy didn't feel relieved at all and had a feeling that she wasn't going to feel relieved until she...
Pushing the last button of her mom's cell-phone number, Amy cringed, half hoping her mother had left it switched off. No such luck.
"Amy? I just left. Is everything okay?" her mom answered.
"Yeah, everything's fine... Um, actually there's just something I think you ought to know..." She went on to confess the whole, sad story. She waited to hear her mother go ballistic through the phone - but instead she heard her laugh.
"Thank you so, so much for telling me what happened!" she said. "I'm sure it wasn't easy for you to call, but if you hadn't, I would have gotten there and the trip would have been a disaster! Now, I'll just swing home and get some other stuff out of the closet."
When her mom rushed back into the house, she wasn't all smiles, but she wasn't really mad either. She seemed relieved to have been able to fix things - and Amy was very relieved that she'd been able to fix things, too.
Q. How did Amy feel when she first found out her mom's clothes had been ruined?
A. She felt like she wanted to hide her mistake so she wouldn't get in trouble.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt relieved that she'd admitted it and that she saved her mom from a big problem.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Amy learned that day?
A. She'd been tempted to try to cover up her mistake, but instead she discovered that admitting what she'd done wrong helped her feel better and helped to correct the situation more easily, too.
Q. Do you think it would have worked out well for Amy if she hadn't called her mom and admitted what she'd done?
A. No. Her mother would likely have been much more upset since she wouldn't have been able to fix the problem (at least as easily) and Amy herself would have likely felt guilty the whole time her mom was away, too. By admitting the mistake early on, she had helped them both.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think that guilt is a positive or negative emotion? Why?
A. While it usually doesn't feel good, more often than not guilt brings us to become good. It is a sort of a spiritual GPS that lets us know when we've gone off the road of positive behavior and helps steer us back.
Q. Our sages teach that someone who messes up and then admits it and corrects himself is greater than someone who never messed up in the first place. How do you understand this idea?
A. While we never try to mess up and make mistakes, oftentimes we grow though the experience - learning how not to act in the future - and we especially grow by developing the honesty to admit our mistakes to ourselves and to anyone we might have harmed.