Pain is a Good Teacher

Do you ever wish you could end a day while it was going well? Five minutes before disaster strikes, just push “pause”? Of course, that only works when you can see it coming. It would be safe to stop everything just when it gets good.

Sam got his two middle fingers smashed in a door hinge tonight, at the end of a glorious day.  We had sailed out of the river and under the Skyway Bridge, enjoying a sunny and brisk afternoon in the blue-green waters of Tampa Bay. We came back at dusk and walked to the little Italian place on Main Street, enjoying some very sweet family time together. It was as near a perfect day as they come this side of heaven…until that wild hour right before bed, when Mom’s doing interior and Dad exterior boat clean-up and kids are supposed to be jammying and brushing teeth, etc. Which brings me to another question: why do humans always have to learn their lessons the hard way?

I want to preach, “How many times have we told you not to play with doors? Now just look what has happened!”  Okay, I actually do preach, but I feel a tad-bit hypocritical doing so.  (I also sound alarmingly like my parents!) “How many times,” I must ask myself, “have I told me not to say every little thing that pops into my head?” Pain is a very good teacher, but not the only one.  Why must we wait until something terrible happens to become wise?

Here, in fact, are some lessons that we have learned on our boat—the hard way—and these are only the first of many, I’m sure.  Investigate every suspicious smell until you find out exactly what’s causing it, as quickly as possible, since it could be something flammable or already beginning to burn, like electrical wire or fuel.  Check to make sure that the dingy you are towing is not only attached to your boat, but also untied from the dock, before you depart. If you do forget to untie your dingy and begin to depart, just untie it from your boat’s stern cleat, or stop the boat, instead of standing there freaking out.  At the very least, make sure the dingy is the Porta-Bote and not the Walker Bay, because at least the Porta-Bote is flexible and won’t be (completely) destroyed. If you decide to make turkey noodle soup for lunch, check to make sure that the electric skillet has little rubber feet so that it can’t slide off the counter when the random super-wave hits the boat. Better yet, put the leftovers away completely, no matter how much the boat is rocking and you don’t feel like it. Last, but not least, when departing on the first day of your voyage, choose a route with which you are somewhat familiar. If it is especially windy and you are going really fast, don’t risk running hard aground or dismasting by taking an unfamiliar shortcut when a familiar, safe one is just a bit out of the way. If the visual cues don’t match up with the chart, do be suspicious and rethink your plan.

I wish I could say that the mistakes we learn the painful way stay with us and prevent further mishaps, but even the ones I’ve learned really well (like, don’t talk to your friend while using the meat slicer…ouch!), don’t seem to apply to a new situation, like, don’t talk to your friend while you’re trying to find your way onto the interstate. I hope that my children will not pinch any more fingers in door hinges, but danger is all around and the lessons are often non-transferrable. It is by God’s grace and no small amount of training and/or preaching that no one in our family has fallen out of a tree or run into the street after a ball. 

There’s no pithy moral at the end here, unfortunately, just an observation that it seems to be man’s fate to learn the hard way.  Occasionally, we might learn from other’s mistakes, but that seems to be the exception and not the rule. If only we could stop ourselves while things are going well!