The Blame Game

Irony – crashing your bike while presenting on bicycle safety.

I taught a bike safety class at our “Bring Your Kids to Work” day event last week. We had a group of about 15 kids, ages 8-12, a very rowdy, intelligent, unfocused group. After I showed them some basics, such as keeping tires at pressure and how to lube and clean the chain, I turned my bike back up onto its wheels, put on my helmet and tried to make a “quick getaway”, mostly to give the kids a chance to run down the plaza after me and blow off steam.

My chain fell off and my foot hit the ground, throwing me off balance. Over I went into a marble seat-wall in front of our building. Ugh. I pointed to my helmet and said, “Boy, it’s good that I had this on, isn’t it?”

The kids, of course, wanted me to do it again. Sadistic little monsters – who can blame them, it was so dramatic!

I got up (I’m a tad bruised, but okay) and asked the kids, who were nearly as surprised as I was “what just happened, why did I crash?”  It turned out their eager hands on the bike chain had removed it from a few gear teeth, and when I jumped on and took off, the pressure of my strong down-pedal kicked the chain completely off. They started pointing at each other. “He did it, she did it. I didn’t do it”. I stopped them with my hands open. “Whoa, hold-up,” took a deep breath, and talked to them about blame and responsibility. When there is an accident, the best first thing to do is make sure everyone is okay, and the second thing to do is work together to identify and fix the problem. There is nothing good that comes out of the blame game, ever. I also reminded them that no matter what, it is my responsibility to check my bike before I get on it, and I did not do that. To be safe, check your bike.

I learned several things from this.

  • First, check your bike before you ride (picture my massive eye roll). Yes, I will do that.
  • Second, every accident or error can become a learning moment.
  • Third, somehow even an eight-year old already knows and engages in the blame game.

This last revelation is incredibly disheartening. It reinforces for me the magnitude of the work we have yet to do and how many ingrained gut-responses must change as we move toward truly integrative design practices, continual improvements, and projects that cross many silos of influence. It gives me a path for improvement, so we can work together to fix the problem. We need to address this “blame game” penchant not only with the building professionals that apply their education to produce high performing buildings, but with our kids and at very young ages. We need to help them become the adults that will exist in a highly integrated and interdependent world.
Green building professionals must actively embrace this role, and speak at career days, work with teachers and communities to host classes that help kids face and even demand responsibility, and open our youth’s energetic minds to collaborative achievement. We cannot do all we need to do in solo, separate endeavors. I know this education already happens in so many ways, and I want to encourage more, much more. This is an educational and outreach pursuit that will support our improvements in sustainability in all topics and projects in the present and future.

Begin now. Reach out. Share. Continually improve. Celebrate. Love your kids. Bicycle safely!


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