While our friends were on vacation, their little boy fell out of a swing and broke his arm. That was it. He broke his arm. What we ended up hearing, however, was that he’d been badly injured on a ride in an amusement park and was in critical condition. We didn’t find out what had really happened until the family returned. This experience reminded me of that game where people stand or sit in a line. The first person is given a statement which he whispers to the second person, and so forth down the row. I imagine you know the game. By the time the statement or comment gets to the end, it’s interesting to hear how much it has changed. The lesson I think we’re supposed to learn from this game is, well you can probably figure it out.
I just discovered a cute and clever children’s book by the same name, Telephone, about the same topic. This time it’s birds, sitting on a telephone line, passing along the information. The results once again are the same. What we end up hearing isn’t what was originally said. It’s a cute book with a great message.
A related children’s book, A Sack Full of Feathers, is also about spreading “news.” It’s based on the old story you’re probably familiar with. In this version, a boy’s stories causes havoc in the village. Lacking all the information, he draws his own conclusions. In order to teach him a lesson, his rabbi suggests he put a feather on the porch of each person in the village. When the boy returns, the rabbi suggests he now gather up those feathers. Oops. Not so easy.
And yet participating in gossip is without a doubt, tempting. It can even seem like harmless fun—unless, of course, you’re the one being gossiped about.
I like that these books teach that principle without being preachy.