Sunday, December 31, 2017
Back in the fifth grade, I had the teacher from hell. He would stop at nothing to berate the children in his care and I was no exception. There was one particular student named Art who always was the class clown. He would do anything to rankle the teacher and the teacher always obliged by sending Art to see the principal. I never knew what Art's background at home was like that caused the consternation, but I do know (now) that many children come to school with some sad baggage. Perhaps Art was one of those kids.
There was a particular day when Art really ticked off the teacher. Instead of sending him to the principal's office, the teacher instead had each of the kids in this class write something about Art and why they did not like him. At the time, I remember myself gleefully writing some two paragraph "thing" and then, reading it out loud to him, as did we all. I was only eleven years old, but I can still remember him squirming uncomfortably in his seat, a pained expression on his face. As I watched him, I no longer felt gleeful. In fact, I thought, "what if that were ME?"
He never was the class clown after that. In fact, he became sullen...withdrawn for the rest of that school year.
I moved away shortly after that, so I have no idea how Art turned out as he grew up.
I look back on this now...and I shudder. What that teacher did was just plain wrong. To point out a person's perceived "flaws" by having other kids-his peers-mock him, was a very low blow. It was no different, I am sure, than the judgment cast upon a woman who was being prepared for stoning. Jesus admonished them all by asking, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone." And...everyone left. "Has no one condemned you?" He asked the woman. "No one," she replied (probably greatly relieved). "Then neither do I. Go...and sin no more!"
I was only eleven years old...too young and ignorant to understand then that what we all did may have had serious implications. I feel so ashamed now. For a trusted adult to castigate a child in that way --by public humiliation--is wrong. A better way would have been to look deeper...to try and understand the "what behind the why" of the child's misbehavior. Many times, a child misbehaves to cover up something more insidious and sad. It could be the only way they know how to cope with the arrows that life hurls at them. And we go and complicate that even further by our own words, actions and deeds. This doesn't just apply to children, either. We adults can be pretty mean towards other adults as well.
In today's' world, we all are guilty of casting blame and then, inducing harm in some way. Don't believe me? Just be a little more attentive of what and how you comment on social media. Or how about your response, be it private or public...on what you see on the TV news...or hear on the radio. We judge...oh yes...we judge and pretty harshly at that!
As the New Year rings in tonight, how about if our resolution for 2018 be that we guard what comes out of our mouths...guard what we say in print...and be a true neighbor...one who loves everyone regardless of whatever sins they have. Condemn no one, but show true compassion as well as humility towards all.
I have no clue how Art is today. I have no clue if he was able to get over the hurdles of his younger years or if those barriers made it harder to be an adult. But to all the OTHER Arts in this world...may we be more accepting of their circumstances, whatever they may be.
May God bless you all.