Oh hey there. It’s me – the parenthetical Big Jerk (today anyway). As a teacher, one of the things I need to do is let parents know when their children are failing, most especially the seniors. Because English 4 is a requirement for graduation, if students are failing, we need to address the situation and correct it as early in the academic year as possible.
Today, I had a meeting with a student’s mother and his guidance counselor. It’s the second time the counselor has held a meeting this year for him (but the first I could attend). The student has a half day schedule, which meant he was long gone from school by the time I went to the 2:00 PM meeting. As a result, he did not attend. He is not disruptive or impolite in class. He just doesn’t follow through in doing his work and, from my vantage point, is a bit lazy.
Mom came into the office, a beautiful, well-dressed Muslim woman. I noticed how nice she looked and immediately assumed (red flag…you know the old adage about assuming) this boy was spoiled and wasn’t performing well simply because he didn’t have to worry about anything. MISTAKE – The kind of mistake Big Jerks make because they assume things.
As we sat down with the counselor, a story unfolded and by the end of it, I wished I could crawl under the nearest piece of particleboard furniture. Apparently, this young man’s father has never been a part of his life in any consistent fashion. The boy is the only son of a single mother, a mother who has fallen ill this year. He works 40 hours a week in addition to school in order to help support his ailing mother. But that’s not all. Of course, Judgy Judgenheimer over here couldn’t have been more wrong. In addition, this lovely woman’s second husband passed away earlier this year, making her a widow, robbing the boy of the only solid father figure he knew, and sending the family into financial upheaval. His mother noted that she is worried that he may be depressed. I guess so.
We discussed some possible options to help the student improve, because he doesn’t have a lot of spare time. Mom admitted that he could do better in this area, and promised to speak with him and check out my class website so that she would know when assignments were due. She was absolutely gracious and helpful and made no excuses for her son, despite the clearly less-than-ideal family situation. And then…I KID. YOU. NOT. This woman, eyes red-rimmed from telling her story and worrying for her son, whips out a Rubbermaid container from her purse. It’s full of freshly made baklava. She puts it on the desk and says “I brought you a treat. Happy Holidays. I don’t know what you celebrate but wanted to do this.”
Lord Jesus, forgive me. I felt no more than an inch tall, not because I’d outwardly said anything condescending to anyone, but because I’d made judgments in my heart based on assumptions. As I awkwardly took three small pastries and gingerly wrapped them in a Kleenex, pangs of shame rattled around in my chest. The meeting ended and I thanked her for coming in and for her generosity, assuring her that I would be in touch. Then I walked my Jerky Self away and choked down those baklava morsels, unable to fully enjoy the flaky-sweet treats. I might as well have been chewing up broken-up concrete.
I’d been so fixated on the fact that this kid wasn’t doing what he was supposed to in my class that when I saw his mother, stylish and beautiful, I leapt clumsily (and wrongfully) to the conclusion that somehow this was her fault. My own hot-headed sanctimony weighed heavily in my heart as the words of Matthew 7:1-2 raced through my head:
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.
The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
Shouldn’t I be better than this after walking with the Lord for so long? Especially since this year I am on a personal journey of pressing more closely into Him? Thankfully, God’s love for me is not based on my performance. He just loves me – unconditionally. Then I remembered Romans 5:20:
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
I know I am forgiven for this misstep today. And I was the only one who knew about it (until I published this). However, I do feel convicted, corrected, and way too mortified by today’s episode to be so quick to think like this again anytime soon. God bless this dear Muslim lady, who unknowingly reminded me of my responsibility to love Jesus by loving others without judgement and assumption.
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