Spring 2016 Edition: Mother, May I?

MomMomA favorite playground game when I was of school age was “Mother, May I?”

For those unfamiliar with this children’s game, the basic objective was to instill both appreciation for authority and foster imaginative thinking.

Speaking of my youth, one of my earliest and fondest memories of my first forays into the wild, wonderful world of publishing was an occasion on which I – along with my high school newspaper sponsor and mentor, Pearl Washington – had to make a difficult choice on the fly.

In a nutshell, our funding was in question, and we had to decide whether or not to send an edition of our paper, The RamPages, to the print shop.

On one hand, we’d already announced to the entire school the paper was due out that week.

On the other, we weren’t sure there was enough money in the school’s budget to cover the printing costs.

Torn, Pearl and I made our choice based on advice she’d received from her own mentor, our high school principal.

“Principal Howard always told me ‘it’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.’ Perhaps this is a case when that rings especially true,” she said, and the decision was made. We sent the issue to the printer.

Fortunately for us, our worst fears weren’t realized, and the check the school cut to the printer cleared.

Fun fact, this adage of it being better to ask for forgiveness than for permission, did not originate with my high school principal but was first stated by the late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, a U.S. Naval officer and early computer programmer. If you’ve never read her story, look her up. She was a remarkable woman and a pioneer of invention.

“It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission” is a piece of advice that’s lingered with me, and even now, some 20 plus years after Pearl and I took that gamble and shipped off a paper we weren’t sure we could afford, I still find myself on occasion making impulsive choices when I fear an apology may be in order before everything is said and done.

After all, life is a series of choices, some deliberate and others haphazard, and not every decision we make, no matter how well intentioned, is going to be popular with everyone.

Picture how colorless and dull a world we’d occupy if we all made every choice based on how it might be perceived by others.

Think of the innovation that would no longer occur, the questions that would never be asked, the solutions that might never be found. Imagine the revolution that would never happen if we preceded every decision with the query “Mother, May I?”

Sometimes, in order to follow a new path, we must first bypass the gatekeeper.

This edition features a number of people and groups who have elected to take risks, even when the obstacles seemed to outweigh the advantages. Rather than shirking from making difficult choices, they’ve opted in favor of imagination, and of believing the greater good is paramount. Instead of saying “May I?” they’ve said “I can, I may, and I will!”

Until next time, Carla E. Anderton