The Right Order, For The Wrong Answer


“You can’t replace the wrong answer, until you’ve got the right one!” ~Nadirah A. Shakir~

I tutor second and third graders on Thursdays nights, and it’s true when they say you can learn a lot from a child. So I’m going over some basic arithmetic with one of the students who is sharp as a blade; but there’s always that one equation that makes us feel “not-so-smart,” right? So the young lady is working the problem out on paper, working the problem out in her head, counting her fingers on her chin, and writing in the answers that she calculates to be correct.

Looking at the answer key, I shake my head each time she fills in the wrong answer to let her know that she has to try again. She’s a little perfectionist. Each time she got the answer incorrect I could see her angst. But she kept trying, and trying, and trying, and erasing, and erasing, and erasing until finally…she got the right answer. I gave her an affirmative head nod as she looked up at me with her hopeful big brown eyes gleaming. She was so excited that she could finally move on to the next problem. After giving her a big high five, and a hand full of peanut M&Ms to celebrate her victory, I asked her why she didn’t just skip over that particular problem and go to the next one. I asked her this question because it is not only advised, it is encouraged for scholastic exams which are often timed—do the ones that you are sure of and come back to the ones that you were stuck on. Her reply was simple, “I don’t like to do that. I like to go in order,” was all she said, with a mouth full of milk chocolate and peanuts.  I had to laugh. So much wisdom, so simple, so young.

As adults when we get stuck on a problem we often find a way around it. We cut a corner, or we even ignore it all together, and leave it blank. We bank on our intellect, and our wits, to give us just enough “cool points” to pass us to the next level. The thing is, even if we get promoted we still have to go back. No lesson goes unlearned. If we leave it blank there’s always that inkling, that void that we know we must fill.

When I used to work as a substitute teacher I witness high school children who could barely read from a elementary school book. Some one had passed them on. They skipped problems, and left answers blank I’m sure.

“I don’t like to do that. I like to go in ORDER,” she replied. There is an order to our life test, and there are steps in our spiritual development. When we don’t follow those steps, when we grow impatient and try to skip those steps we always fall back—fail, and that is how we waste precious time. The fact that most scholastic exams are timed made me pay special attention to her flow after her big “problem”. Funny, how she breezed through the rest of her practice test. Plus she had time to take a break stretch her legs, and snack on peanut M&Ms and still finish before her time was up. You save time when you go in order, and you can’t replace the wrong answer until you’ve got the right one. That was the lesson that the seven year old taught me.

Our big problems, and big ordeals that appear to stop our flow will really give us the power we need to move forward with precision, if we just take the time to figure them out, face them with courage and the intention to understand.

I’m wishing you Divine Order, patience, and understanding with those difficult life equations. Nadirah A. Shakir


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