Thursday, February 09, 2006

"Life Ain't Fair" - R-E-V-I-S-I-T-E-D

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.


A Human Bean said...

Sadly, the parents are teaching there daughter all of the wrong things. My father harped and harped on the truth that life is not fair. It took me a long time to learn it, but I did.

Maybe they will take the time to teacher her about the only one who is truly fair - God.

Jennifer said...

You are so insightful. I'm a spelling bee veteran, too! I never got as far as Sara, either. I've been dealing with a similar situation in my life lately. Inwardly, I've crossing my arms, pouting, and stomping my foot: "It's not fair!" Well, no it's not. No one said it would be. Good to be reminded.

Not Crunchy said...

AMEN! Like Human Bean's father, my father said this alot. This concept used to be my reason for not believing in a just and fair and caring God. I like what you said: "He reads hearts, and He reads them perfectly and fairly."

Bethany said...


Thank you for posting this. As a public school teacher, one of my least favorite lines to hear coming out of students mouths is "That's not fair!"

I usually kinda go off on that one and say something in the way of,"No, that's fine. What's not fair is that their are kids all over the world starving, without people to take care of them, and we American's are blowing our money (that we could help them with) on television and video games!"

It keeps them from saying it too often in my classroom, as not much puts me in a tirade (and they don't wanna feel guilty about their video games!) :D

I've been mulling over posting on fairness. Of course, I was going to do it from a mommy standpoint and make it an object lesson for my children. I may have to resurrect that idea.

I cannot believe this family is going to sue over that! Sheeesh!

Melanie Morales said...

A foreign friend of mind in Luxembourg refers to USA as United Suers of America...

I have a spelling bee story. I used to be taunted by a guy and his friends among other things - for the fact that I was a different religion than they were and took my Bible and church pretty seriously for a fifth grader. It was just the legalistic "church" stuff expected of me. I won our school spelling bee after two hours of "spelling off" with one opponent who was left - this same guy. Guess what word he missed? "Meek" Yep! He spelled it "M-E-A-K". He stood there and thought and thought and I knew he didn't know how to spell it. (Obviously his days of skipping Bible class and running through the halls during class time were coming back to haunt him that day!) I spelled it correctly and then went on to spell "giraffe" for the win. (Did I spell it right here? hehe)

My parents taught me early on that life is not fair rather than how to speed dial my attorney. It's one of the most valuable lessons I've been taught.

rev-ed said...

Melanie - On my two trips to the county spelling bee, I missed a three-letter word and a four-letter word. If nothing else, it taught me a little humility (and meekness)...