Rule Follower or Rule Breaker?

My answer: I notice when others break the rule.

In general, I do my best to be a respectful member of society. Yes, I occasionally break a rule. I walk where I’m not supposed to; I sometimes drive faster than I should. I’ve let my dog off-leash on a field and on trails that were not off-leash.

Which is why I didn’t say anything the other day when I tried to enjoy a picnic lunch at a local park.

Numerous signs at the park warn that dogs are to be leashed at all times. People are encouraged to call the posted phone number if off-leash dogs are around.

I’ve had two other picnics at this same park and seen unleashed dogs both times, their owners breaking the rule. However, the dogs were well-trained and kept their distance.

But this time, we had no sooner spread out our blanket and sat down, than a dog dashed into our midst and stole my grandson’s burrito.

The dog was leashed (does that count?) but the leash was dragging behind it. The owner apologized profusely and paid for the burrito. But now, my grandson had no lunch.

Still, I didn’t call the number to report the rule breaker. I didn’t want to be one of “those” people. I didn’t want to be a tattle tale, a spoil sport.

Then, another dog took a bite from the cookie my granddaughter was holding. This owner, this rule breaker, didn’t apologize. She was too busy swearing and trying to catch her dog. I talked (loudly) about calling the number and reporting her, but I didn’t.

I understand that rules are made so we can all live peacefully in a safe society. I also know none of us is perfect. Sometimes, we break the rule.

In hindsight, I wish I had called the number. I wish I had not erred on the side of leniency or listened to the voice inside me that shamed me into silence.

What would you have done?

A Missed Opportunity?

I look at the most recent viral video and wonder, did the Catholic school chaperones miss a teachable moment?

Teens do not have fully developed brains. They often do not have impulse control. This is scientific fact. This is why we scratch our heads and wonder how could a teen who gets straight A’s do something so stupid?

The human brain is not fully connected until the age of 25. This is why teens need chaperones (over the age of 25) on school trips. Chaperones are there to keep the teens safe and to help them make wise choices.

Suppose you were chaperoning a group of teens. Suppose you were minding your own business in a public space, and someone in that same public space started shouting insults at your group. What would you do?

My first choice wouldn’t be to encourage the teens to participate in high energy school spirit chants. Raising the volume, chanting, beating drums, crowding, does not change people’s minds or diffuse a situation.

Sadly, there are people who are aggressive in our public spaces. There are people who will shout insults in a public space. There are people who will do their best to rile others up in a public space.

I can’t say what the smiling teen was thinking. But I do know that smiling in response to taunts does not diffuse a situation. In fact, experience tells me it does the opposite. I learned pretty early that one of the best ways to get my siblings even more upset was to smile at their anger.

While the insults were being hurled and the drums were beating, the adult chaperones could have leaned into the moment and taught the teens an adult response that was better than the ones on display. A response they could use throughout their lives.

How about ignoring those who are shouting insults or crowding your space? How about huddling together as a group and saying a quiet prayer for those insulting you?

How about debriefing later as a group, talking about how it felt to be insulted and not respond, you know, like Jesus did?