I was given a link to this story from a Reno, Nevada newspaper. It's a typical tale from our legitious society, I 'm afraid. In short, eighth-grader, Sara Beckman, was involved in the county spelling bee when she was given the word "discernible". She spelled it correctly, but since it was misspelled on the judges' sheets, Sara was disqualified. The error was not brought to the moderator's attention immediately, and the bee continued. Now Sara and her parents have a lawyer who says he will file suit if the final round isn't replayed. The bee officials say that the rules were distributed and read, and since the rules for a protest weren't followed Sara was eliminated from the competition.
I'm an old spelling bee veteran. I never got as far as Sara though. I did reach the county competition twice, and just missed a third time. My youngest son is the alternate for the county spelling bee tonight. I've been through this before. And let me tell you, there is nothing fair about a spelling bee. Oh sure, it's as fair as can be practically accomplished. But the kid after you always gets an easy word -- especially after you'd just had to spell "mononucleosis" or "longitudinally". Plus some kids are terrified of standing up in front of strangers, while others are comfortable showing off in front of others. It's never going to be completely fair.
Back in November, I blogged about the unfairness of life. But such an obvious concept eludes us periodically. We think contests should always be on a level playing field, but it's never that way. Just wait until the Olympic figure skating starts and the announcers have to explain away the marks from the Russian judge. Or check out the recent whining about the lousy officiating in the Super Bowl last weekend. Even instant replay can't make everything fair. Why would anyone think a lawsuit could solve problems in a spelling bee?
When there's a prize or a title on the line we try to be even more cautious about not playing favorites. Coming up Monday and Tuesday is the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. Being dog-lovers, my family and I don't miss a year of this show. If you've never watched a dog show, the canines are judged on different criteria. Each dog is judged according to how closely it resembles the breed standard. Some breeds standards are a little easier to measure up to than others. Yet the show is in it's 130th year. But it's not fair.
I doubt that we could really call beauty pageants fair either. Everyone's standard of beauty is different. I know that I can never pick the winner of a beauty pageant in the opening parade.
The problem with our obsession with fairness is we tend to focus on the here and now. We value our treasures on earth far more than we ought. We act as if we believe that all good gifts are given to those who work, sweat and study to earn them and that the trophies, plaques and medals will never dull or tarnish. I'm not advocating laziness, but we cannot afford to base our hopes, dreams and identities on earthly honors.
For Sara the speller, I'm sorry that the officials messed up your big chance to go to the state finals. But at the same time there are going to be bigger injustices in your life. However I pray that you and your family come to the realization that it really doesn't matter. The spelling trophies are impressive to show off for a couple of years, but eventually they get dull and they end up in the way. Your obvious intelligence will serve you well -- with or without a trip to the state spelling bee. And the guy taking advantage of the situation is that lawyer friend of yours.
Life ain't fair. But our eternity will be determined by the only fair judge. He has no distorted agendas nor any false information. He reads hearts, and He reads them perfectly and fairly. And if yours belongs to Him, you won't be disqualified.