Imagine that you are a school lunch cafeteria manager.
Imagine that it is the first day of a new school year. There is confusion among everyone, as each person – student, staff, and manager – are trying to learn their roles.
The bell rings, indicating that the last lunch service of the day is nearly over. For students, it means that they have 10 minutes to find their next class. For the lunchroom employees, this means that it is time to start cleaning up.
Then, you, the lunchroom manager, are called to the serving line. There is a problem to deal with.
You stop what you are doing and step forward. An eighth-grader with learning disabilities and diabetes, and her assigned aid, are standing in front of you.
The situation is explained. The young lady was late getting to lunch because she was administering her insulin dose. The girl had reviewed the lunch menu, decided she wanted pizza, and taken the correct amount of insulin to account for the food.
You look around. The leftover pizza, still in its boxes, have been put in the trash can.
Lunch service is officially over.
What would you do?
“The girl insisted on having pizza,” said the news reporter. You, the lunchroom manager, feel compassion on the girl. It is the first day, and everyone is running around, confused and trying to find their footing in the new school year. You offer her some of the leftovers that had already been thrown away.
All you need to do is take the top box off of the garbage can, open the box, and reveal the completely untouched pizza inside.
Yes, you are breaking health regulations. But the young lady “insists” on being served the pizza that she had mentally and physically prepared to eat.
If she doesn’t eat it, she goes away hungry with too much insulin in her system. If you can find an alternative option that can account for the same insulin dosage, you can offer it – but how long will that take and how effective can you be?
Top it all off by recalling that she has less-than 10 minutes to get to her next class.
The lunchroom manger gives her the slice of pizza. It is perfectly suitable-for-human-consumption, except for a technical rule.
There is no pattern of misbehavior or rule breaking going on in the lunchroom. This is an isolated incident, taken out of compassion for the girl. The young lady, and her assigned aid, have presumably also learned the amount of time to plan for future lunchroom visits.
Later, the girl off-handedly reports to a school administrator that she was served lunch out of a garbage can. It sounds disgusting and sensational to tell it that way, and so what else is a middle-schooler to do? It gets heads to turn and brings her attention.
She also tells her mother.
Her mother is “outraged.”
The story is now all over the local media. The headline reads, “Parent outraged after diabetic student served pizza from trash.”
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out·rage ( ˈoutˌrāj )
1. to arouse an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation.
I’ve heard the word “outrage” used in various forms in the news recently. One woman experienced outrage when she learned that photos of herself had been edited and were being printed in publications that she had not agreed to. Some communities felt outrage when police actions left dead people that they believe were innocent. Some nations felt outrage when other nations fired missiles into their cities, hurting innocent women and children.
In another case, a mother experienced outrage because her daughter asked to be fed pizza for lunch, and her request was granted.
In some cases, “outrage” may be justified because a person had no control in a situation. In other cases, the word “indignation” would be more appropriate.
a display of anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.
The choice to experience either reaction is made by an individual.
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The lunchroom manager and staff receive training, crammed into their schedules before the next day’s food preparation and service can begin, so that they can understand the rules of food handling. Even though there clearly was no misunderstanding of the rules to being with. There was a compassionate “lapse of judgment,” as a district spokesman put it.
The girl is reassigned a new aid, one that “is medically trained and knows more about appropriate carb counts.” Presumably, this is done so that the girl can continue not learning any lesson about time management and self-accountability. She can carry on, late to lunch again-and-again in the future, this new aid can conjure up what alternate foods can be served to the girl.
Except that the aid won’t make the food appear. The lunchroom manager will then be privileged to drop what she is doing and bring her entire attention to the girl’s needs, preparing an alternate menu as her carb-counting helper dictates.
The girl can go and be late to her next class. It will be the lunchroom manager’s fault.
And the parent can continue to be “outraged” over that too.
Sounds like a great plan to me!
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Now, what I believe should have happened. The lunchroom manager, the parent, and perhaps the principal should have met in person or over a phone call.
The parent should have thanked the lunchroom manager for serving her child, and promised to work with her daughter to better understand her role and responsibility in being on time, or at least in sending word to the lunchroom, before the bell rings, to save her a slice of pizza.
The lunchroom manager should have apologized for not following proper protocol and assured her that it is not her regular practice.
All should have shaken hands and agreed to continue on with life with a cheerful attitude, kindness, and compassion for each other’s difficult roles and responsibilities.
Having been appropriately worked out, you and I should never have read this story online, nor saw it on the evening television newscast.
It could have been possible, if the parties chose to do so.
Compassion motivated one party. Outrage blinded the other.