February 21st, 2017

Alice hiding

LJI 10 Week 9: Discussion Questions

Our Sunday School classroom was narrow, with eggshell blue walls. Each week, we received a colorful paper pamphlet, containing a Bible verse for our class to reflect upon, some activities to do together, and discussion questions. I would stare out the high slit of a window, where treetops danced in the sun, and contemplate the moral dilemmas presented to us on colored newsprint.

Geared towards preteens like us, these discussion questions posed what I felt were problems with obvious solutions.

"The new girl at school is awkward and lonely. She is sitting at a table by herself and looks like she's about to cry. What do you do?"

Of course, you go up to her. Of course you talk to her. Maybe you even become her friend.

"The most popular guy in school is a terrible math student, and he asks you to let him copy off your paper the next time you have a test. He tells you that he will introduce you to all the popular kids in school. What do you do?"

No brainer. You tell him no, you cannot let him copy off your test. You continue being the fashion-impaired English geek who sits at the lunch table with the other "brains."

"Your best friend wants you to distract a shop keeper while she steals some candy. What do you do?"

Say no and find another best friend. Duh.

These questions were softballs, nothing like the real moral dilemmas I would face in upcoming years. Where were questions like this one?

"You're dating a really nice guy, but you have the hots for another guy, who's super funny and cute. You think the funny guy is interested in you, too. What do you do?"

Answer: I couldn't decide, waited too long, and broke both their hearts. I kept dating the nice guy until I went off to college, and at the end of a pleasant visit from him, I told him I wanted to see other people. Then I started dating the funny guy, but we were awkward together. He wrote me that his mom died, and I completely flaked out on him and told him I couldn't see him any more.

Or how about this one?

"You see that someone has been writing racist graffiti on a desk in Chemistry class. What do you do?"

Answer: I wrote demented answers to that person, claiming to know who he was and threatening to do all sorts of terrible things to him, signing my messages "POE." Each day, I secretly looked forward to seeing what my "hate pen pal" had written me. I've never told anyone about this before. I doubt the Sunday School teacher would have approved.

Or this one?

"You are dating a guy who is emotionally abusive and controlling. You meet another guy at a Halloween party who is dark, artistic and funny. What do you do?"

Me and funny guys, right? You guessed it: my answer was to have an affair, when I should have just left the abusive bozo. I planned to move out while he was away on a trip one weekend, but then he made the mistake of saying to me, "I don't know what I'd do without you." I couldn't help but answer, "You're going to have to find out."

Knowing what's right is only part of the calculation. We can't foresee the consequences of our actions, except in the most abstract way. What seems right at the time -- or at least right for us -- doesn't necessarily lead to the happiest of outcomes. I'm fortunate I've never had to make a decision that led to dire results for myself or others. That knowledge would be heartwrenchingly hard to reconcile. I suffer from enough guilt over the fact that I didn't go door to door in support of Hillary Clinton when I had the chance.

A learning experience, I keep telling myself. It's all a learning experience. The answers aren't shaded in blue on the back of colored newsprint. The answers aren't anywhere at all.