Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 163 - Melvin Morse and the Molasses Cookies

Somewhere between ninth and eleventh grade a classmate of mine disappeared.  I mean he probably moved but we wondered if he just dropped out.  Melvin Morse rode the same bus to and from school and he was a little eccentric.  It was obvious by the random trash in his front yard and his decaying home that he was from a very poor family.  His hair wasn't always clean and combed and his clothes had holes in them. He always had that sinister smile but in general seemed to be a nice guy. He laughed nervously alot and I think for the most part people tried to accept him but there was a spot on the back of his head that had warts in his hairline which really grossed them out.

Whenever I eat molasses cookies I always think of him.  In seventh grade we had an assignment in English class to show how to make something via a demonstration. Obviously we didn't have a stove in the classroom so the students who demonstrated how to make something that needed to be baked in an oven had to do this twice.  Once at home to have product samples to pass out after the demonstration in class.  Melvin showed us how to make Molasses Cookies.  I hadn't even heard of molasses as it wasn't something my mother ever had in the house.  (I never knew what a bagel was until I was in college.)  So he made the batter and mixed it with his hands.

Classmates snickered as he gave his presentation and I think I heard Mrs. Hershey give a sigh and I saw her glare at fellow classmates. He went to the restroom, washed his hands. While Melvin was out of the room Mrs. Hersey said that we better do the right thing when he returned and eat his cookies. Melvin returned to pass out a molasses cookie to everyone in the room. We all sat there and were afraid to eat the cookies.  This is a great example of groupthink.

Groupthink is defined by Wikipedia as a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking

The amazing thing about groupthink is that only takes one person to change it. The right thing to do was to at least try the cookie.  I remember somebody saying, "Hey Melvin this is good!" while eating their cookie.  I decided to try mine.  It actually was very good.  I felt that Melvin had a great day that day because he was continually told throughout the day how good the cookies were. He was all smiles.

One person changed the course of that day and ultimately changed the groupthink.  Speaking up or being the first helps groups become more than one collective mind of followers.  Thinking for ourselves ultimately helped Melvin to have a rare moment and as a result he had a good day.  I rode past his house on the bus for two years not knowing what happened to him. I wish him well and hope he graduated from school somewhere eventually. I'm just glad that the first person that tasted his cookie was in the right place at the right time [under Mrs. Hersey's direction] to make a difference in the life of Melvin.

Again I looked throughout the earth and saw that the swiftest person does not always win the race, nor the strongest man the battle, and that wise men are often poor , and skillful men are not necessarily famous; but it's all by chance, by happening to be at the right place at the right time. ~Ecclesiastes 9:11


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