I don't consider myself much of a gossip. I'm not sure that's because of any overwhelming virtue on my part, or because I don't often know too much that is going on. I do know that stories once started are hard to stop and that rumors can take on a life of their own.
This was brought home to me today. I was on the playground with my kids before school and another mother made a beeline for me. "You would know if anyone would," she said, "Did Rose R. break her leg?"
Now, Rose is one of my best and dearest friends, and I had last spoken to her on Tuesday. I certainly hadn't heard that she had broken her leg - but if she did, I'm not certain calling me and telling me would be one of her top priorities.
"The crossing guard told me that Rose R. was in the hospital with a broken leg," this mom continued. There was another mother there who was supposed to be meeting Rose that morning. She hadn't heard anything either. "See who drives her car-pool" someone suggested.
And a few minutes later, there was Rose, letting kids out of her car on two perfectly good legs.
By the time I talked to her (after the flag-day ceremony) she said she'd been hearing this story from multiple places. She doesn't know how it got started. "I can be forgetful sometimes," she said, "but I'm pretty sure I would have remembered if I'd broken my leg." The stories she heard even involved her seventh-grader making the call to 911.
"Who do you think did break a leg?" I asked her.
"There's Rose S., she has a daughter in the middle school too - I hope she didn't break a leg," Rose said, "but maybe it's her."
So I don't know if someone named Rose is suffering from a broken leg this morning - and if she is I wish that person a speedy recovery. My thoughts on this though go back to gossip and rumor. No one involved in this had anything less than Rose's best intentions at heart. If something was wrong they wanted to know so they could help - and they wanted to pass the information to friends who also could help. Now Rose didn't need any help (at least with her leg, she'd be quick to point out). But look how quickly a false story spread through the playground moms. How many questions is Rose going to have to field about her non-broken leg?
It just drives home the point, that even if you think you have your information from a reliable source it may not be completely accurate.
And trying to un-tell a rumor is like trying to gather all the little puffs from a dandelion.