I only know this story because my parents variously repeated it with the same effect: I was responsible for shortening their life span.
We lived in the wide-open prairies of Kansas that had been sawn in two by Highway 54. Our house had been a considerable distance from the road until the state decided to divert the traffic through our front bedroom.
However, surrounding us was a prairie and farmland symmetrically outlined with hedgerows. The hedge trees were planted by a Johnny-Appleseed character year earlier. Actually, he was more of a Johnny-Osage-Orange character because that’s what the trees are called. They are incredibly hard wood with limbs that are viciously thorny. Hedgerows are the gossipy little old church ladies of the nature world; get tangled in them and you’ll come out bloody and bruised.
I had just turned 3 when I disappeared one morning. Mom got on the party line and soon all the neighbors and my parents were looking for me. Child abduction was not as prevalent during the early ‘60’s, but I was missing and imaginations stir ferocious fear.
Snaking through the prairies are numerous ravines that are raging torrents in the spring but make great bunkers for war games in the summer. In one of those ravines far from the house, my Dad finally spotted my little head bobbing up and down.
It was the first time in my recorded history I threw someone else under the bus; namely, my dog. Because when Dad came rushing upon me, my 3-year-old intellect deduced his fear and anger and immediately blurted out, “Boo-Boo made me do it!” This was Boo-Boo the dog; not Honey Boo-Boo the non-reality television personality.
The blame game is not new: Adam blamed Eve who blamed the snake and, well, it’s never recorded who the snake blamed. Regardless of what you call it, it boils down to a tendency to blame someone else for a mistake you had a significant part in creating, participating, and executing. Studies have shown that the health of an organization is measured by blame. In the healthiest organizations, the blame goes up the chain; a culture is created where the superiors accept responsibility. In the unhealthiest organizations, blame travels down the chain in a kick-the-dog fashion.
When one of my sons was a child, he asked me this question: When will I know I’m all grown up and stuff?
I thought about it for a bit, then replied, “When you learn to accept responsibilities for your own actions and don’t blame others.”
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