Monday, February 13, 2012

A Devil Lurks in the Details

No one that I am aware of would ever intentionally hurt a child either physically or emotionally.  Unfortunately adults can and do hurt children quite often by not paying attention to details. Yes, we are all busy and in this hyper information age, keeping track of everything can be overwhelming, but growing up, I recall doing something called “proofreading”.  Long before spell-check and grammar-check and basic laziness, we were required to reread not once, but twice, all of our written materials. Often the help of another person was sought to look over a paper or a presentation before it was submitted for a grade. To this day, I still proofread with pencil in hand, all of my son’s philosophy and history papers. I may not always understand the content, but I am a force of nature if the rhythm, alliteration or direct object references are even a mere bit off balance.

Before I move to my main beef, an all too common incident happened again last week. I review packets of information submitted to me by youth who wish to become the best of the best in my volunteer organization of choice. If you know me, you know what that is. If you don’t, then it does not matter. If handwritten (nowadays a headache unto itself as kids cannot seem to write out the alphabet anymore) the mistakes are horrendous. If typewritten, and a computer check is used, kids don’t seem to understand that many of the words in our English language have multiple spellings and usage, and the machine is not programmed to notice the difference. Asking for help must be an ancient event now too as a parent is usually nearby whom has not looked over the packet either. I try and be nice and use a blue pen rather than a red one and must ask if it is okay to write on their paper because many have already gotten original signatures on these same pages. Which makes me wonder…how did three people before me not notice these glaring mistakes?

Anyway, back to the issue of hurting a child. Last night, at the big award ceremony for the kids who did achieve this highest honor, quite a few of them were left off the list and out of the elaborately printed booklet. This is a once in a lifetime event for these young men and their families, the booklet being a souvenir to commemorate speeches by dignitaries and honors bestowed upon those who have served for a long time before them.  How shameful it is that adults cannot take the time to cross reference names to be sure no one is left out. Imagine attending your high school graduation and finding that your name was accidentally omitted so after everyone has crossed the stage; there you sit in cap and gown all alone. Embarrassing yes, but the lifetime scar on your memory will be deep.  Yes, this situation was purely by accident no doubt. But to the ones who are victimized by it, no apology can make up for the hurt and embarrassment. Parents left stunned at tables while their children sit uncalled. If it had been my child, I would not have been as quiet as you all were.  I commend the restraint you showed and understand your anger. On behalf of our organization, I apologize to you.

The butchering of names being read should not happen either. My older son had to submit the phonetic pronunciation of his name to the university for graduation this spring…only four syllables in three names but you never know.  My younger son had his name mispronounced at his high school graduation and though it remains a running joke I was not happy at the time and he shall never be about such an easily correctable error.

Point being, how hard is it to take the time to be sure the details are correct? Yes, we are all busy, but busy doing what? If the job is to be putting together a program, shouldn’t the checking of details be part of what is making one busy? I do believe for all the time saving convenience of modern day machines, the pencil and paper still outrank them. We made fewer mistakes when it took more time to prepare a document. There was care in our creative process. The manual typewriter and even the electric typewriter with our little bottle of liquid paper beside it forced us to think and focus and be careful. Every mistake meant starting over with a new piece of paper and trying again.  Our writings may have been shorter, but they were correct and to the point. Imagine the Gettysburg Address if Lincoln had had a computer handy.

Again, I apologize on behalf of those who wear the uniform and congratulate your sons on reaching a milestone along the trail. May we all learn from our mistakes and make an effort to do better next time so no other child will be hurt.


  1. Thank you Judi! Very well put. I appreciate you standing up for the boys, my son included.