The line of girls and leaders waiting to use the Port-a-Potties wrapped up the road. Five port-a-potties were available, why was the line so long?
Shanna Davis walked confidently past the really long line, heading towards a port-a-potty.
“Wait!” shouted one of the girls at the front of the line. “Don’t you see the sign? That port-a-potty is out of order!”
Shanna laughed and went in.
The stake young women leaders saw the really long line and went to investigate. Prominently displayed on four of the five port-a-potty doors, in Shanna’s handwriting, were “Out of Order” signs. The line initiated at the door of the only “working” port-a-potty.
Shanna emerged victorious as the leaders took down the signs. They moved the line along, still having to convince some of the girls they’d been pranked.
My time at girls camp as a stake leader began the next year. When I heard about Shanna’s prank, I laughed and laughed. But, then, I felt kind of disturbed and concerned. Really? They all fell for it? They believed a non-flushing toilet was inoperable and didn’t reason through that paradox? Perhaps they thought the latrines needed emptying, but the stake leaders I served with said, no, the girls believed the port-a-potties stopped working and were out of order.
Blame or Solve
Some ladies in line felt really upset that nothing had been done to fix the obvious problem before they’d been forced to stand in line. Someone should have done something to remedy the situation and fix the four “Out of Order” port-a-potties. But, that “someone” wasn’t them. They contented themselves with blaming someone else’s failure to fix the problem rather than identifying what the potential problem was and determining if they could fix it themselves.
My brother showed me the exact opposite approach at a family reunion where we camped together. The wood for the campfire ran out? Daylen went, got wood, and chopped it. Someone hadn’t finished setting up their tent? He went over and helped. There weren’t enough camp chairs? He moved over and found a different spot to sit so that a person without a camp chair (me) could sit comfortably. He also gave me his sweatshirt when the night grew cold. (Basically, I was woefully unprepared for camping in Wyoming. I’ve gotten used to temperate Hawaiian temperatures.)
Daylen also involved his kids in solving problems, too. They found kindling and cleaned up the camp site and made themselves available during square dancing when their sweet little cousins didn’t have a partner.
But, the point is that he observed and acted. Many potential problems didn’t affect us because Daylen resolved them before most of us knew there were issues. If he’d been in that line, (well, he wouldn’t have been pranked by that sign), but if he’d seen that four of five porta potties were somehow broken, he would have checked to see if he could resolve the crisis. He acts and finds liberation in taking care of business.
The Lord said, “Remember, that ye are free to act for yourselves, to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. … Reconcile yourselves to the will of God and not to the will of the devil and the flesh” (2 Nephi 10:23-24).
Besides pretty clear scriptures, two quotes that hit me on the head and woke me up are attributed to Maya Angelou and Viktor Frankl.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude,” said Maya Angelou.
After surviving a Nazi concentration camp, Viktor Frankl wrote “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
I love being free to act! I find great satisfaction and purpose in moving forward. Except for my absolute need of the Savior and His Grace, I take responsibility for my surroundings and happiness. I haven’t always been good at that and have made, and still make, mistakes with people I love and work with as I make my way, helter skelter, along life’s path.
Shouting out Needless Warnings
What of the girl forcefully shouting out a needless warning to the actual prankster?
I remember doing something similar in Hebrew class at BYU. A classmate hadn’t been to class for a while, and I voiced concern to my study group. Someone told me the classmate had died recently. I asked why the professor kept calling his name during roll call. Various answers ensued.
The next time our professor called his name for the roll, saddened by the student’s passing and the teacher’s apparent insensitivity, I blurted out, “Why do you keep calling his name if he died?” Professor Pack looked a little confused and my study group burst out laughing. I’m pretty sure the prank couldn’t have climaxed any better.
But, I believed a fable. I internalized it. I defended it.
Meaningful warnings should be shouted out. Protection of physical and spiritual life is one of God’s purposes for us. But we need to make sure the warning is true and relevant.
Get in Line, You Prefer That
Who knows how long port-a-potty Warning Girl stood in line. When we’ve been in line for awhile, and finally reach the front of the line, especially critical bathroom lines, we generally become experts, and maybe a little judgmental. And people congregate to lines because the people have become experts, have you noticed?
I watched “Brain Games,” a TV show, documenting how people prefer lines to no line. We feel more comfortable in a collective decision, especially when deciding where to eat. The show watched people select food venders in a Food Court. Several vendors with similar food options had no lines and a waiting staff.
But over and over again, customers chose vendors with long lines. Afterwards, the unknowing test subjects said they figured the food was better because so many people were in line. Maybe the food tasted better, maybe it didn’t, but the experiment cemented itself into my psyche and now I question why I’m standing in a line.
Is Your Guide Blind?
Also, since hearing about the “Out of Order” port-a-potty lines, I’ve wondered how many times I’ve followed a blind guide. Jesus warned that the blind leading the blind would fall into a ditch.
Mormon challenged his people, “it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. … And now…seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully” (Moroni 7:15, 18).
And so, when we find ourselves facing Out of Order porta potties, we have the opportunity to keep our brains active, observe and then serve, share true warnings, evaluate our line reasoning, and choose a guide with eyes wide open.
The Savior enables us do all of those things and to judge good from evil. If we turn to Him and rely solely on Him, we won’t be deceived by metaphorical Out of Order port-a-potty pranks.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.