In the 1997 film, “Soul Food”, the lead character named Grandmama fixed every problem in the family, merely by loving everyone. The family was full of problems, blood relatives and in-laws alike. Everyone needed a good sitting-down and told like it was, but Grandmama didn’t state the obvious. She just laughed, giggled, played, and made everything okay. She didn’t cover up or hide problems; she completed the greater mission of keeping the family together.
Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to just ignore it. Tell a joke. Make everything okay. Help the tired, self-destructing child get to bed—sleep is the need, not a lecture. Run the late dinner to the guests at the table and drop a small self-depreciating joke that would make anyone’s enemy would pause to chuckle. Smile and ask the 18 year old who ran out of gas, “Did we learn anything here?”
Don’t make matters worse by adding insult to injury. You may thing the punitive fine is educational; it’s not. Punishments are a deterrent, but even police are allowed discretion, choosing whether or not it would help or harm to issue a fine. To educate people is the goal. No one wants to fail and being stopped by the cops is more than enough to tell most everyone to get their heads in the game.
Fools hurt themselves, but they are still hurting. Don’t cave into that instinct to beat up the beaten down. A little well-placed compassion, a foot-up, a line tossed, an anonymous bus pass paid—charitable deeds communicate clearly that the fool’s blunder was seen, that the fool only fools himself, and that the fool is loved by a God who loves all fools.
It’s not anything complex to know that gently keeping the peace will make one valuable, both at the office and in the social stream. It’s not irresponsible to not scold everyone for every stumble. The pavement is a teacher good enough. Restating the already taught makes oneself ordinary, not marketable. The world of the self-ruined need news, hope, something they don’t know. We need help knowing it’s okay to walk again. We need people who will be like Grandmama.