Mary, age ten, had been chosen to play first violin in her school orchestra. On the way to a concert, she stumbled over a curb; the case fell out of her hands and the violin cracked. Mary was too wretched even to cry. "I'm so clumsy," she wailed. "Now I won't be able to play the concert and it's all my fault."

"That's not what we say when a mishap occurs," said Mary's mother. "We don't blame. We are solution-oriented. The question is: How can we get another violin tonight?" Mary's mouth dropped open. "Mrs. Lee, the music teacher, has extras in the music room," she said meekly. "You just found the solution!" said Mother with appreciation.

Mary and her mother hurried to the music room. Mary told Mrs. Lee what had happened. Mrs. Lee started yelling, "You broke your instrument? When we give you a violin, we expect you to take care of it. You'll have to pay for it. Violins are expensive. I don't know if I should give you another one."


"Mrs. Lee," said Mary loudly, "we need to be solution-oriented. I'll pay for the damage tomorrow. Right now, I need a violin for the concert."

Mrs. Lee seemed dumbstruck. She handed a violin to Mary, who rushed backstage to tune it for the concert.

Mary's mother performed a great service to her daughter. She taught her a most important principle in mental health: When things go wrong, a responsible person does not look for culprits. He looks for solutions.

—Haim Ginott

Jesse McCarthy