How Do You React?
Thinking about April Fools’ Day
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider how we react to unexpected information (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and three readers.
Leader: April Fools’ Day falls on a Saturday this year, which may mean that some of you can’t play your usual pranks on friends or even on teachers! I wonder how many of you have been caught out by tricks over the years. (You may want to invite students to share their experiences.)
What’s the best April Fools’ Day joke ever? Here are three contenders.
Reader 1: One year, Polo Mints announced that, in accordance with EEC Council Regulation (EC) 631/95, it would no longer be producing mints with holes. This regulation supposedly required all producers of ‘tubular foodstuffs’ to delete the holes from their products. To satisfy the regulation, the existing stock of Polo mints would be supplemented with a ‘Euro-conversion kit’ containing 20 ‘hole fillers’, each measuring 7mm, to be placed inside each Polo mint. A detailed instruction leaflet would also be included.
Reader 2: In 2016, a leading football website broke the news that Lionel Messi, the Barcelona winger, was to join Barcelona’s arch rivals, Real Madrid, for a transfer fee of 500 million euro. Sharp-eyed readers spotted that the name of the journalist was Lirpa Loof, which is ‘April Fool’ spelled backwards.
Reader 3: Virgin Cola once released a story on 1 April stating that they had produced cans of cola that turned blue when the product reached its sell-by date. This turned out to be a joke played on Pepsi, who had just revealed their newly designed cans in - guess what colour? - yes, blue!
Time for reflection
Leader: April Fool jokes all depend on our first reactions. If we are the kind of people whom some would label gullible or naive, and whose first reaction is to believe everything that others tell us, we can be easily fooled. It’s not a bad characteristic to have: it shows that we are trusting and that we believe that others are honest in what they say. However, it can be embarrassing on April Fools’ Day. Our trust has been broken.
Trust is based on several things. First, it is based on what we know of people. If they have spoken the truth in the past, we are more likely to trust them in the future. Including on April Fools’ Day. However, trust also depends on how we assess the information that we are being given. With a little thought, we realize that a conversion kit for a Polo mint is ludicrous, Lionel Messi isn’t likely to sign for Real Madrid and cans of drink don’t change colour. We simply need to take a little time to think things through and not jump to conclusions. It usually depends on how quick our reactions are.
First reactions can have significant effects. On April Fools’ Day, the consequences are merely embarrassing. But how do you respond to surprising serious news, bad news or even shocking news? There’s often a physical effect. We may find our heart pounding, a feeling of sickness in the stomach, a cold sweat, even a sense of giddiness. Such reactions can take quite a time to get over and leave us feeling confused. During times like these, we are probably vulnerable to whatever else is said to us. Criticism, mockery or abuse can affect us deeply. Our first reaction has not been helpful.
Jesus talked about the importance of being wise rather than foolish. He said that a wise person gained the best results in the end. For instance, in a parable, he talked about how a wise man chose to build on a foundation of rock rather than the easier option of building on sand. Guess which building survived the floods? When going into a dangerous situation, he told his disciples to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. What did he mean? He meant that they should be aware of what was going on and carefully judge what they did and said. Wisdom is about not having knee-jerk reactions. Wisdom results in making calm and appropriate responses to whatever life might throw at us. Wise people aren’t easily fooled on 1 April because they know that people will be out to get them, so they are very aware.
Wisdom also prevents us from responding hastily in the bigger issues of life. It’s easy to react to gossip about friends or close relationships. Being wise is about waiting until we can talk to the person whom we feel has treated us unfairly. It’s also easy to feel down when we find we’ve failed a test, bungled an experiment or come up short of our targets. Being wise is about waiting until we can see clearly what we did wrong so that we can do our best to remedy it. It’s easy to react to world news, too, and feel despondent or elated about the effect that it may have. Being wise is about waiting until we know the whole story and can assess the big picture.
Literature is full of examples of a character called the wise fool. Shakespeare includes a fool or clown in many of his plays. It’s a character who appears to get everything wrong, understands nothing, becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes and often gets knocked around the stage in the process. But in the end, the wise fool is the one who actually understands the truth of what’s going on. The wise fool is the one who gets it right in the end. So don’t worry if you’ve been caught out in the past or if you are in the future. Let’s learn from our mistakes and move on!
Thank you for the wisdom gained from past experience.
Remind us of this when we receive unexpected information.
May we be calm and constructive as we make our decisions about how to respond.