The Taiwanese-American family is adapting nicely to their Orlando neighborhood. It’s time for the mom Jessica to venture out towards something she seems to be quite good at. Since she has found out that she could easily sell a home through the combination of her charm and her pushy ways, she has decided to get her real estate license. However, something always gets in the way of achieving their goals for this family. This time, it’s a harmless conversation Jessica has with this seemingly harmless woman at the licensing office. The woman claims to be the real estate agent of the year with a lifetime achievement of selling some 300 homes. Upon hearing that gigantic number, Jessica bolts from the office to eat her comfort food, an ice cream sandwich. Not wanting to feel shame, she goes home pretending to have gotten her license only to have her lies uncovered by the neighborhood big-mouth Honey. Her husband found out about this and confronts Jessica. Her excuse is that she can never be good enough to be the best and if she encourages the children to be the best at what they do, how can she be their example? 300 homes are a lifetime away. She can’t possibly beat 300 homes.
I’m unsure whether the show is trying to portray the Asian culture’s perfectionist tendency or just a general fear of failure that plagues just about every culture. I suspect it’s a bit of both. This picture analogizes any new pursuit. In Christian communities, this could involve serving in a new area volunteering in something that we’ve never tried before. Many of us want the safety of our own lack of effort. Success is not as desirable as the lack of failure. We may be afraid of what others think about us if we fail. We may be afraid of what we think of ourselves if we fail. We want a nice, neat and undisturbed life. In our churches, we often talk about people having the right talents or gifts doing the right services. Sometimes the adverse result is that people are so afraid to fail that they fail in the worst way to discover what they’re capable of. I think that’s the same feeling that plagues Jessica.
What does it take for people to venture into something new? It takes grace, grace towards others and grace towards ourselves. We need to extend grace towards others who fail, and at the same time, we need to confront failure in measurable ways. We need to extend grace to ourselves. We must remember that one thing is even worse than failure, and that is the lack of effort. We must understand that success and failures are only by degree. Neither define who we are, but they also teach us who we are. In a healthy community, people extend grace towards failure. A healthy individual also learns to accept success and failure not something over which to gloat or to mourn but as life lessons granted by the Creator and the faith community. Neither success nor failure is permanent, so long as we learn something from both.
For Jessica, the story has a happy ending as she overcomes her hangups and easily passes her licensing exam. At one point, I was also wondering if her English is good enough to pass the exam, but surely, she was smart enough and passed with flying colors. I wonder if our faith community will have such a happy ending.