Parable # 35: Sometimes Everything Goes Wrong

    A Parable by Donald Lee

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    (This week is the 38th installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about learning from our mistakes, learning to choose differently next time. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

    Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.

    SOPHIA LOREN(Twentieth-century Italian actress and singer)

    “Where are Carter and Angelo? Has anybody seen them?” I asked in a panic. Everyone looked around, shrugged, and shook their heads.

    We were about to leave for the local seniors’ home to play a Christmas concert, and two of my players were missing. Everyone else had showed up in the band room at lunchtime, as instructed. Most had their uniforms on. As usual, there were a few “out to lunch” students who said, “Uniform? Were we supposed to wear our uniform?”

    “We always wear our uniforms for concerts.” The number of times I’ve said that is on the same order of magnitude as the number of galaxies in the universe.

    I asked the secretary to page Carter and Angelo. Everyone else loaded themselves and their instruments onto the bus for the short trip. Carter rushed up, a bit out of breath.

    “I was already on my way when I heard the announcement.”

    Angelo, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found. I was curious to see how this was going to unfold, since Angelo’s mother worked at the seniors’ home we were going to. There’d be no hiding this one from your parents.

    When we arrived there, Scarlett (Angelo’s mom) helped us set up the chairs and music stands.

    “I don’t know where Angelo is,” I told Scarlett. “He didn’t show up, and he didn’t come when paged.” That’s all I needed to say. In this day of cell phones, a teenager is never far from his mother’s reach. The situation quickly became clear.

    Instead of coming to the band room with his lunch, Angelo had gone with a friend to Tim Horton’s for lunch. It’s on the other side of the river. There was a big construction project on the bridge, and traffic had recently been rerouted to a portion of the new road. Since the detour was new and confusing to drivers, there had been a couple accidents, and the police were keeping a close eye on it. Angelo and his friend didn’t have time to go to Timmie’s and back, so they may have been rushing—through a construction zone—closely watched by the police. Bad idea.

    You may have guessed it. Angelo’s friend was, indeed, stopped by the police. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know that the police are never in a hurry. They may have gone even slower just to make a couple of teenaged boys speeding through a construction zone sweat as long as possible.

    Angelo never did make it to our concert. Afterward, I jokingly said to Scarlett, “So, is Angelo in jail?”

    “He will be!” was Scarlett’s angry response.

    It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny at Angelo’s house that evening. We hate to see teenagers make (what we think are) easily avoidable mistakes, but it’s part of the curriculum in the school of life. Some days everything goes wrong. We struggle through and learn to make different choices next time.


    Wouldn’t it be great if we really could learn from the mistakes of others and not have to make every stupid mistake in the book and mess up our lives in the process? We make mistakes and, in various ways, get stopped by life’s “police.” We sweat and fret. Our mistakes cost us time and money and maybe cause injury to ourselves or others. Education in the school of hard knocks is tough. But that’s how life works. We have to make the mistakes and struggle with the consequences because we become better people in the process. To move forward on our spiritual path, we want to learn at least two important lessons from our screwups.

    Firstly, they are our screwups. Just like Angelo created his own problems through his choices, so do we. Our “problems,” if we choose to perceive them as such, are the natural consequences of our actions. It’s easy to see the choice-consequence relationship with Angelo. It’s not so easy to see it in our own lives. We prefer to blame others or fate—anything outside ourselves. But just like growing up is learning to take responsibility for our actions, spiritual maturity is learning to see that we create our own experience.

    Secondly, don’t do that again. We created our experience through our own thoughts, words, and actions. We have to think, speak, and act differently in order to experience different results. It’s as if we are tripping over exposed roots on this wild spiritual path in life. We will keep tripping over them until we learn to deal with them. Maybe step a bit higher next time? What does “higher” mean with the spiritual tripping hazards in your life?

    Sometimes everything goes wrong. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and make different choices. If we don’t learn, we’ll do it all again another day.

    We create our own problems, and only we can solve them—by making different choices that align with our highest and best self.

    Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website:, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook

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