A Story of Neglect

Imagine a mom leaving to run errands for the day. She leaves instructions for her teenage children while she is away. She tells them, “Clean the house. Pick up your clothes. Do the dishes. Clean the windows. Dust. Feed the dog. Clean up your rooms. Straighten the den. Make sure the house is spic and span when I return home. I do not want to return to a dirty house.” The teens respond positively to the instructions.  The mom returns at the end of the day and is astonished when she walks in the house. The house is not clean. She asks her children what they did all day. The following is their response:

“We fed the dog in obedience to what you commanded. And not only did we feed the dog but we read books on how to feed the dog better and what the dog’s food should be. And then we trained our youngest siblings how to feed the dog. The importance of feeding the dog was not lost on us. So we then went door to door and talked with others about the need to feed dogs everywhere. We let them know that they could not be good children if they did not feed the dog. Then we came back and fed the dog again. So the dog is fed.”

Shocked, the mother is almost speechless and is unsure of how to reply. “What…? How…? Did you not hear me? Yes, I asked you to feed the dog. But did you not hear my repeated requests…commands for you to CLEAN THE HOUSE? All of my instructions would be summed in the command for you to clean the house. I said it explicitly. And I said it repeatedly. And I told you what that would look like. How could you ignore this and only feed the dog and make the day about the dog? I told you to feed the dog once and you did it. I told you over and over and over to clean and you didn’t. How is this possible?”

“God help us.”

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