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Saturday, December 20, 2014

They Just Want a Bow

For those who don't know, I work in the educational realm, assisting students of varying ages and walks of life. An interesting incident happened one Christmas, which confirmed a fascinating phenomenon I first observed years ago. In the spirit of peace on earth and good will toward men, I revisit the story now.

I had received a gift from a grateful teacher, which she had adorned with an attractive but ordinary holiday bow. Taking notice of the decoration, one of my students pleaded with me to give it to her. This particular young lady was something of a challenge, trying the patience of both peers and professionals through negative, attention-seeking behaviors. Thinking quickly, I outlined some behavioral expectations she would have to meet for the duration of class in order to win the desired prize. At the end of the period, having risen to the occasion, she proudly displayed her trinket.

Another student, whose disruptive behaviors belied a mass of insecurity manifesting alternately in tears and bravado, begged for a holiday bauble that he, too, could show off. I had to regretfully tell him I had no other. He assumed his "I don't care" stance and swaggered out into the hall and his holidays.

These happenings took me back almost 10 years ago, when I was assigned to a class of seniors reminiscent of the "sweathogs" of Welcome Back, Kotter fame. Many of these kids were troubled and unruly. One student was perpetually absent, so I struck a deal with him: come to school every day for an entire week, and receive a reward. To my surprised delight, this tattooed, biker-bearded teen met the challenge one week, and looked to me for his winnings. Unprepared, I searched around in my bag of tricks (similar to Mary Poppins' carpetbag, my over-the-shoulder tote houses everything from school supplies to first aid items, and quite a bit in between). I could come up with nothing but a rumpled sheet of stickers of a cartoon character popular with the nursery school crowd. To my utter amazement, this 250-pound truant broke into a Grand Canyon-sized grin. He snatched up the stickers and with them, all the stock I had put in his "tough guy" braggadocio.

Like most kids I've met, this guy just wanted a "bow." Not a Christmas bow, but a token of self-worth. The burly bruiser he passed himself off as gave way to the little boy inside, who needed to be accepted and loved as well as held accountable.

I've been handing out stickers ever since (and silly pencils and eraser tops and whatever odds and ends are hiding in the bottom of my bag). The occasional wiseguy who scoffs at my goodies frequently melts when he sees his peers lapping them up. The gifts are incidental; the value affixed to them is the attraction. The smallest bit of recognition gives an excellent student a well-deserved accolade and an underachiever something to shoot for.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

For more like this, check out: 

Morsels for Meditation...: Dusty and Chewy, AKA, They Just Want a Bow 2

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I Am Peter Part 2

Taking one's own medicine is not for the fainthearted. It's Christmastime, season of all seasons to forgive and extend mercy, and yours truly has to admit again to having feet of clay. Let me tell you, slogging around in righteous indignation makes for some pretty clumsy steps.

Awhile back I angrily blogged about the lack of forgiveness someone in my world was showing to a repentant sinner who had wronged my children and me. How dare this person, I railed, hold a grudge on my behalf? Yet, here I stand in this season of peace on earth and good will toward men, finding myself in the same mindset for which I castigated others.

Matthew 7, anyone?

This time last year, my Lord offered me the privilege of extending grace to people who had hurt folks I love. They had also snubbed me, but in minor ways that affected my life only peripherally. In all honesty, I've been hurt far worse by much more skilled offenders; yet somehow my rage on this occasion was rancorous. True to form, over the holidays these individuals showed a callousness toward my family, and one member in particular, on whose behalf I seethed. What made their behavior so unconscionable (in my judgment-dispensing eyes) was that these wrongs were perpetrated by fellow believers!

When they entered the room, I quietly fumed to my conversation partners, whose puzzled looks and conciliatory comments contrasted starkly with my wrathful ones. I'm just telling it like it was; no point sugar-coating the ugly truth. I continued to vent in hushed tones to the select few who had the un-looked-for honor of being within hearing range.

Realizing, thanks be to God, that public accusations would only hurt the ones whose case I'd be pleading, I limited my diatribe to the aforementioned bewildered ears. Presently, the culprits greeted me (warmly), and I followed the course I had decided on the moment they set foot in the door: absolute coldness.

I hadn't seen them in years. There should have been much to talk about, but I eschewed polite conversation and instead spoke minimally and superficially. I feigned no interest in their (to my mind) self-absorbed lives. I suspect - no, I'm sure - they noticed, and probably felt hurt. Part of me cares, yet part of me rejoices that I accomplished what I set out to do: wound them the way they wounded the people who matter to me.

Fast forward to today. I'm in much the same mood. Critical, grumpy, un-pleasable (that may not be a word, but I'm breaking lots of rules today). As I sat (make that stewed) in Sunday school this morning, I made a mental checklist of all the sheep who weren't going along with the shepherd's agenda. They were interrupting his train of thought with questions, of all things! Such a recalcitrant flock, I grumbled to myself. A few in particular didn't meet with my approval; I passed judgment, then moved onto the next black sheep to be disapproved of.

In a few hours, I'll be hosting a belated birthday celebration for a dear friend who has miraculously managed to escape the ire I feel for all things breathing today. Between now and dinnertime, the Holy Spirit sure has a lot of work to do.

For more like this, check out: Morsels for Meditation...: I Am Peter