Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Please Say "Rats!"

Over the last two months, my son has been prepring for his roles as both a rat and a child in the Pensacola Little Theater's production of The Pied Piper of Hammelin. The production has since ended, but before it did, I had the pleasure of watching it on three occassions. Though the most enjoyable part of the performance for me was watching his every move (even the times he chose to make faces on stage in an effort to get me to laugh...mission accomplished), even a simple story like this initiated thoughtful reflection on my daily life.

Early in the play, the Mayor of Hammelin Town makes it very clear to the citizens that the rats infesting the town will go away on their own if everyone chooses to ignore them. At the same time, visitors won't even notice the rats if the word is not uttered. Using such logic, he went as far as to make the word "Rats" illegal. "Don't say rats!" was the town's motto. Though most follow his direction and refuse to say "the forbidden word", a few choose to speak up and remind all that the rat problem is real and getting worse. The majority of the citizens tell these outspoken individuals to be quiet, but to no avail. These same individuals decide enough is enough and demand the mayor take action before the tourists refuse to return and the townspeople pick up and leave. The Mayor is disturbed by the unruly few who choose to acknowledge the problem and though he admits that the rats do exist, he chooses to do nothing about it, asking others to do the same..."Don't say rats!"

Those of us familiar with the story know the Pied Piper addresses and ultimately solves the problem. As I watched and laughed about how flawed the Mayor's logic was, I couldn't help but see parallel examples in my professional life.

- Do we believe ignoring a problem fixes anything?
- Do we tell those willing to speak up and make a case for meaningful action that they need to go along with our charade and pretend all is well?
- Do we merely tell our seniors of the problem without attempting to fix it at our level through personal initiative?

We need to speak up when we see rats, encourage others to do the same, and personally address the problem as much as we can before portraying ourselves as helpless victims. It is one thing to acknowledge there is a problem, it is far more to do something about it. To be so unaware as to not know we are surrounded by rats is bad enough; To know there are rats and choose to do nothing about it is far worse. We need not wait on a Pied Piper to rid us of our problem, but if we do, we must be prepared to pay him. If we are not, we might want to think about leaving town.

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