Last week, as we were going through a couple of sessions on valuing others and cross-cultural team building, we were presented with the following scenario.
The Eyeglass Dilemma
Once there was a girl named Abigail who was in love with a boy named Gregory. Gregory had an unfortunate accident one day and broke his glasses. Abigail, being a true friend, volunteered to take them to be repaired. The repair shop was across the river, and during a flash flood the bridge was washed away. Poor Gregory could see nothing without his glasses, so Abigail was desperate to get across the river to the repair shop.
While she was standing forlornly on the bank of the river, clutching the broken glasses in her hand, a boy named Sinbad glided by in a rowboat. She asked Sinbad if he would take her across the river. He agreed on the condition that while she was having the glasses repaired, she would go to a nearby store and steal a transistor radio that he had been wanting.
Abigail refused to do this and went to see a friend named Ivan who had a boat. When Abigail told Ivan her problem, he said he was too busy to help her out and didn't want to become involved. Abigail, feeling that she had no other choice, returned to Sinbad and told him she would agree to his plan.
When Abigail returned the repaired glasses to Gregory, she told him what she had done. Gregory was so mad at her behavior that he told her he never wanted to see her again.
Abigail, upset, turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug was so sorry for Abigail that he promised her he would get even with Gregory. They went to the school playground where Gregory was playing ball and Abigail watched happily while Slug beat Gregory up and broke his new glasses.
Rank the story characters from Best to Worst and give a rationale for your decision.
We took a few minutes to rank the characters for ourselves, then the session facilitators counted our votes for each of the characters. I was surprised that every character in the story was voted both "best" and "worst" by at least one person in the group! As we started to share our rationale, it was clear that our own worldview, our ideas of friendship and loyalty, our morality and absolute right/wrong, and even our emotions played into it.
Some viewed Slug as the worst for taking up offenses and beating up Gregory. Others said Abigail shouldn't have stolen the radio, no matter what. Others thought Sinbad was bad for wanting something in return for giving Abigail a ride. Ivan was blamed for not being willing to help. And even Gregory was voted the worst character for not forgiving Abigail.
On the flip side, Slug stood up for Abigail, Abigail helped a friend in need, Sinbad was just being a shrewd business man and didn't have to offer her a free ride just because she needed to get across the river, Ivan didn't have to stop what he was doing to help and he was honest with Abigail, and Gregory didn't really do anything wrong in the first place.
I thought it was an interesting group exercise, and it sparked a lot of conversation around our tables. I understood where each person was coming from, even though I didn't agree with it. It had been hard for me to pick a definite "best" and "worst" character as I thought each one had some redeeming qualities as well as some poor choices/wrong behaviors.
Overall, working through this exercise is teaching me that what I view as right and wrong may not be viewed that way by people from other cultures and mindsets. Especially in matters regarding personnel and people's behaviors, I must seek out more information before making a snap judgement.
What do you think? Did this story make you stop and re-think your initial gut reaction?
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