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Turning Mistakes into Masterpieces

Updated: Feb 17

It had been a week since my son had gone to school. He had been ill, so I went to his school, talked with his teacher, and picked up his homework. I took it home and looked it over with him, talking him through what was needed. He responded that he would be able to do it and didn’t need help.

A few days later my son was feeling better, and he proudly announced all his homework was done and that we now had time to do something fun. We were both excited at this announcement, both that he was finally feeling better and that the dreaded homework was complete! I briefly looked at his paper and verified there were answers in each place and thanked him for his efforts.

I know what you are thinking; did you look at the answers on those homework sheets? Sadly, the answer is no. Whether that was trusting he really knew what he was doing or wishful thinking, it happened. Now it is Tuesday morning, we are getting ready for school and I stop to look over the homework. I am now realizing that some of it wasn’t done correctly. I bring it to his attention, and he is upset at the thought of doing it again. Do I let him turn it in knowing it is wrong, or do I help him redo it knowing it will be late? There are consequences both ways.

Let’s look at this in a different light. Years ago, I had purchased an antique end table that needed a little love to bring it back from years of neglect. I wanted to keep the integrity of this piece and honor its original beauty so I knew right off that I would need to be gentle in sanding and staining. It took some time as I opted to not use power tools, and it was coming together nicely. I was just about to start applying stain when someone approached me and commented on my work. I was grateful for their acknowledgement of the work I had done and that they also recognized the integrity of the piece. Before they went their way, they noticed a spot that they felt needed some attention. As I had stepped away for a moment, they took an electrical sander to the spot they felt was unfinished.

As I entered back into the space, it didn’t take but a moment for me to see what had happened. This person kindly wanted to do what they thought was helpful, but in the end, it ruined the end table. They had sanded the wood away, down to a bolt that was holding the pedestal to the tabletop. I was speechless. Saddened at all the work and effort I had given to retore this piece, I now wondered what I was going to do to keep the integrity of this piece?

They apologized and went their way. I sat on my garage floor and wept. After some time, I recentered myself and decided to finish the table anyway. I was not able to reasonably patch over the bolt, so I stained and lacquered the table. Aside from the bolt, it turned out nicely. I placed the end table into its designated place, strategically placing books over the bolt.

Was it the masterpiece I had wanted? No. Did it still do what I needed it to do? Yes. Does everything we do or touch turn out the way we had envisioned or intended? Not always. Sometimes it turns out better, or we learn an important lesson of respect, responsibility, or compassion.

Now back to the homework dilemma. As the time was drawing near to leave for school, I decided the battle wasn’t worth fighting at that moment. We both took a deep breath and focused instead on the work he had done right, I apologized for not looking at it earlier to verify it was done the way his teacher had asked. We loaded the backpack with all that was needed for the day and left the homework on the table to take another look at it later.

I was making the situation harder, not easier. I wanted to teach him responsibility but he wasn’t going to learn it in that environment. He didn’t get kicked out of school for not having it done, and I was able to let him know he mattered. Later that evening we were able to fix the mistakes in a calm environment and turn them in the next day. Our mistakes became a learning experience building love, trust, and responsibility.


At believe, we recognize we all make mistakes. It’s what we do with our mistakes that can change the world for good or bad. Join us in our efforts to turn mistakes into masterpieces that build good in the world.

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