In honor of memories lost and memories gained I want to share a memory with you in honor of Memorial Day.
This weekend while watching the new Star Trek film Star Trek Into Darkness I remembered a big mistake I made during my freshman year in college. It happened in a paper I wrote discussing The Martian Chronicles and the television show Star Trek. I was completing my first semester in college and a term paper was due for my favorite class, English Colloquium. Our grade was determined by class discussions and a term paper. Weeks and months passed and no topic excited me. One morning I awoke and knew the title: “Hopes and Fears as Written and Portrayed by the Author of The Martian Chronicles and Star Trek.”
After finishing my writing, I waited anxiously for a meeting with my teacher to discuss the term paper. I was proud of the paper I had written. When we met, he handed me my paper. I immediately saw there was no grade on the paper. I looked at him with a perplexed look as he began to ask me many questions about my paper. We talked about the hopes and fears of man and the difference between a reader’s and an author’s perception. After almost two hours he wrote an A on the cover page and handed me my paper. He told me he had enjoyed our discussion and looked forward to reading more of my writing in the years to come. He told me to take some time and read his comments. I put the paper in my backpack and headed off to my next class.
That night in the cafeteria I was talking to a friend about my paper when he said to me, “Those stories are not written by the same author.” I ran back to my dorm, grabbed my paper and read my teacher’s comments. At the end of my paper he had written Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles and Gene Roddenberry – Star Trek. Until that very moment I thought Roy Bradbury had written Star Trek. My heart sank. He wrote next to the names, “Joe, mistakes happen. Always follow your dreams.”
Through this mistake my teacher taught me the power of understanding and the importance of fairness. Life for us and for our children is about learning from our mistakes. That day I realized we learn more from a big mistake than a big success, and it is our ability to learn and respond to such failures that define and enable us to achieve our greatest successes. The next time your child makes a mistake remember how being fair, kind and non-judgmental provide your child the greatest opportunity to learn.