The No Choice Choice

Paper or Plastic?

Have you ever been given a choice by someone who became disappointed when you made the wrong one?

One Saturday morning I was grocery shopping.  As I was shopping, I received a text from my lovely wife, asking if I could pick up five or six PAPER grocery bags to cover a table during an art project at Sunday School the next day.  As I proceeded to the checkout, the wheels in my mind began to spin. How was I going to get the bags? Can I just take them? Should I offer to pay for them instead? How much would they charge me per bag?  As the questions rummaged through my frontal lobe, the solution eventually presented itself.

Like you probably deduced initially, I finally came up with the brilliant idea to have the bag person actually put my now purchased items INTO the Paper Bags INSTEAD of the plastic ones.  Now, before you start congratulating me on my incredible problem-solving skills, I must admit that this idea occurred to me AFTER I heard the bag person ask the customer before me, “Paper or Plastic”.

When it was my turn and I was asked, I replied “PAPER”. The bag person opened a PLASTIC bag and proceeded to fill it up with my groceries.

“Sir, Can I have paper, please?”  The man gave me a look, as if unsure how to accomplish this new task.  He grabbed a PAPER bag from below his station, filled it about halfway, and placed it in my cart.  The two milk gallons came up next and he asked me if I wanted my Milk in a bag. When I said Yes, he placed them in PLASTIC bags.  I asked again if I could have PAPER, so he placed each gallon of milk, still in the PLASTIC bag, inside a PAPER bag.

The conveyor line was moving my items toward him quickly now because I had somehow threw off his timing.  He placed the milk in the cart, then reached for a PLASTIC bag, but stopped himself, as if he had almost stuck his hand in a moving buzz saw.  He got another PAPER bag and opened it. The items were pushing up against the bagging platform and he had no place to put the PAPER bag, as it did not occur to him to place it on the lower shelf that holds the PLASTIC bags.  With a sign of subtle frustration, he pushed my items aside with his left hand and placed the PAPER bag in the now vacant spot with his right. He again filled the bag halfway and placed it in my cart.

The checkout lady, obviously sensing the approaching aneurysm from her co-worker, began filling up a PAPER bag from her end.  When all the PAPER bags were in my cart, I paid my total, with PAPER (CASH) and pushed my cart toward the door.

The No Choice Choice

While not a specific “Palzewism”, the No Choice Choice is something I use with my students.  For example, when someone asks when lunchtime will be, I simply say, ”you can go at Noon or Twelve.  It’s Your Choice.”


Work will be graded at the end of the week or Friday.


When my son wanted lunch, I loved asking him if he wanted Peanut Butter and Jelly or Jelly and Peanut Butter.

Now, I did not do this to be mean.  I was mostly just trying to be silly but I also understand that most people, even kids, feel empowered when they are given a choice.  Many times the choices are truly genuine, such as what assignment we should do first or what they would like to do during the Free Time they have earned.  

Aren’t we the same way?  I always ask my wife where she wants to go for supper, even though I know that the answer is “I don’t know”.  (Quick Sidebar: I think if someone would open a restaurant named “I DON”T KNOW”, they would make a lot of money!) The purpose of asking is not to get information, but simply to let her know that I am considering her in this instant (as opposed to all the other selfish times I decide)

In education, master teachers practice a strategy of guided choices, which I have chosen to call the No Choice Choice.  When compliance is needed, the teacher will offer two alternatives, but one will be so unappealing that the other is chosen universally.  “Sit down or I will have to call home” is a basic choice where only the most rebellious child will choose the latter. As a teacher, I place the decision of compliance with the student and can base my next moves on their action (or nonaction).  

This strategy is not new.  God has been using it with us since day one!  In Genesis, God laid out a simple choice for his creation, follow him or don’t. Whatever the choice, there will be consequences, both in the present and hereafter, for either.  The choice is also a guided one, because, as the teacher to the student, we are offered two extremes that really state there is no choice.  We can either spend eternity with him or banishment from his presence. The decision is ours!

I enjoy the Canadian Power Trio called RUSH.  Although the lyricist, Neil Peart, is a card-carrying atheist, his lyrics have a spiritual quality that would rival any hymn.  One of my favorites is a song called “Free Will”. If you haven’t heard it, follow this link.  One of the song’s most provocative line is “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”

The choice is ( and always has been) whether or not there is a GOD.  As I explain in my book, “You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing

This is not my story, although everything happened to me.  This is a story about the power of God. I just happened to find myself a secondary character.  To appreciate this story, you must be able to acknowledge two basic facts.

The first is that there is a God.  I always looked at it this way – There either is or there isn’t.  To me, this is a black and white debate. And, to be honest, both ideas scare the HELL out of me (pun intended).  

If God doesn’t exist, that means life is just a random set of coincidences and no one is in charge.  Man is his own ruler, and, as I sure you can agree, we are idiots. If there is a God, you better find out who he is and what he wants before you leave this ball of mud.

Many have sought God and God has called many of those who weren’t looking.  The Bible is full of accounts of God choosing a sinful and broken loser to do something he could have done himself with a lot less effort and collateral damage.  But I believe God chooses the broken because he finally has them where he needs them to be, on their knees.

The second is similar.  If you believe there is a God, you must also believe that there is a devil.  He is real and, as God, he also chooses people to further his kingdom.

If you can accept those two truths, this is the story of how the Devil broke me and God picked me up, dusted me off, and set me on my knees.

You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing


God has given us the ultimate

No Choice Choice!

Please comment below on your parents, teachers or even your favorite No Choice Choice!

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