“There is no shame in ignorance and failing; there is only shame in not being willing to learn and repeating the same errors over again.”
I have made just about every mistake a person can make, but I’ve only made them once.
Take for instance when I received the greatest honor that could be bestowed upon a sixth grader in the idyllic little lakeside town of Sunapee, New Hampshire: I got to raise the flag at the start of the school day and, rather than doing this with a partner, which was customary, I got to raise the flag on my own.
The first day, I connected the flag’s grommets to the rope’s hooks, careful not to let the flag hit the ground. I likewise attached the state flag and hoisted away.
My patriotic salute accomplished, I returned to Mrs. Warren’s class.
A few minutes later, our principal, Mr. Greenbaum, knocked on the door.
“Mrs. Warren, who raise the flag today?”
“Mr. Kramer, would you come with me?”
We walked together to the tall pole. As we approached it, he pointed up to the top. “When you raise the flag, you always make sure the field of stars is on top. If you hang the flag upside down, like you did, that means our country is in great trouble.”
We corrected my error and re-raised the flags.
The next day, I was extra careful to ensure not only that the flags didn’t touch the ground, but that the American flag was flying right side up.
Then there was another knock on our classroom door.
“Mr. Kramer, did you raise the flags today?”
“Please come with me.”
At the base of the flag pole, he pointed out, “See how the state flag is above the American flag? No flag ever flies over the American flag.”
We corrected my new error.
The next day, I scrupulously ensured the flags never touched the ground, the American flag was hung right side up and above the state flag. All was right at the flagpole.
As I raised the flags, a knot has somehow formed in the rope and the flags could only get about halfway up the pole. I pulled and pulled, but the rope wouldn’t budge past that point. The job finished as best as I could, I returned to class.
Mr. Greenbaum knocked for a third day in a row.
Well-practiced, I stood without being called upon and we walked to the pole. I learned that day about how our country mourns the death of prominent citizens.
Mr. Greenbaum and Mrs. Warren wisely decided I had fulfilled my sixth-grade duties to the school and to our nation. I am pretty sure that they rightfully feared that if I were given even one more chance to get things right, somehow I would find a way to accidently burn the Stars & Stripes.
As the character Haskel advises Blythe in the novel that carries her name, “There is no shame in ignorance and failing; there is only shame in not being willing to learn and repeating the same errors over again.”
Perhaps someone else should run that up the flagpole and see if it flies.
(Order Blythe at www.Amazon.BlytheBook.com)