I don’t know!

I don’t know what it is, but recently I’ve noticed – on a number of occasions – how difficult it is for us to admit that we don’t know something.

The most recent experience was this past weekend on our stroll through Arlington National Cemetery.  While there I wanted to collect my National Parks stamps and was in search of one that I had not collected on an earlier visit.  Since I had missed this particular stamp previously, I did some research to try and identify its exact location so that I would know where to find it this time around.

We walked the lovely paths through the cemetery and stopped at the Memorial dedicated to women in military service and then walked on to the top of the hill and Arlington House.  The stamp I was after was supposed to be located in the house.

I found the stamping station and put each stamp into my little book realizing that the particular stamp for the Underground Railroad, which is what I was after, was not among them.  Learning to admit my ignorance, I went in search of a park ranger to ask my question.

He listened to my question and then gave me a long lecture about how there was never a part of the Underground Railroad through Arlington House and they didn’t have a stamp like that.  He went on to inform me that if a stamp like that was to be found it would probably be at some other location.  He continued to explain, however, that that particular location hasn’t been open for years.  Concluding, he was absolutely sure there was not a place where I could get an Underground Railroad stamp from Arlington.

Felling frustrated, I continued my walk and further along the path I realized that there was a small bookstore located behind the main house in one of the old slaves’ quarters.  I went in and sure enough, there was a stamping station and – would you believe it? – a stamp for the Underground Railroad from Arlington.

Satisfied to have accomplished my mission, I began to wonder why the park ranger couldn’t just have told me “I don’t know.”

Why is it so hard for us to admit that we don’t know something?  There are so many things we don’t know! And, certainly, at any given time, we can’t know all there is to know about anything, no matter how much expertise we have.

I’ve concluded that it is difficult to do because it requires humility.  We must be humble enough to come to terms with our own inadequacy and then speak out loud the words of our ignorance.  If we can find the humility to do that, however, the reward is  grace, and a freedom in realizing we were never meant to be responsible for knowing everything.

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