A Whole Person


Last week, I posted some thoughts about my friendship with Shasta, and the feeling of having nothing to offer, and I want to add to that a bit.

This year at work, I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer for some more things. Evidently, teaching 6/5ths isn’t enough. For those of you who don’t know, 6/5ths means that I’m teaching an extra class without any planning period. In addition to joining a committee and a staff book club, and attending English Department happy hours, I thought it’d be a good idea to join the faculty advisory council for National Honor Society.

I know. That sounds really cool, like it brings some sort of prestige or something. I assure you, it doesn’t. All it really means is that I had to get together with several other chumps and go through the hundred or so applications kids put in for NHS. Their applications include lists of extra-curricular activities, volunteer experience, work experience, leadership experience, etc… There’s also an essay and a couple of faculty letters of recommendation to read, so suffice it to say that it’s a lot of reading.

In order for us all to complete the reading, we got together on a Friday after work, and read… and read… and read.

It’s okay; there was free pizza.

Interestingly enough, as we were reading and discussing, I found myself in disagreement with the other teachers about which students qualified for NHS and which ones didn’t. At first, I thought the difference was that I was one of the only teachers there who didn’t teach AP classes, and therefore, I had lower standards than the other teachers had.

Then, we came across a really heart-wrenching application from a student whose brother was a quadriplegic. For his volunteer, work, and leadership experiences, this student included time spent aiding his brother.

And that was all he included.

When we first sat down and started reading, we were told that kids needed three valid items on each of their lists: three extra-curriculars, three examples of volunteer/work experience, three experiences leading others… and this kid didn’t have enough.

So I didn’t think he should get in. After all, he hadn’t met the requirements.

The other teachers didn’t agree with me; they thought he should get in.

And it struck me that my tendency to let kids in who the others didn’t, and to reject students they accepted had more to do with my standards-based mentality.

Would that student with the quadriplegic brother adequately represent the IRHS chapter of NHS? Absolutely. Was he a student who lived with the character NHS honors students for? Absolutely.

So why didn’t I immediately vote yes for this kid?

Because he didn’t fill out all of the boxes he was supposed to.

It’s so difficult to think on ourselves and others as we actually are… as whole people.

I was out for a walk with a friend and her tiny tikes the other day. She has a two-year-old and a teeny baby, and the two-yr-old has hit a difficult, disobedient stage. He does whatever he wants, goes completely limp in your arms if you’re even just trying to stand him up on his feet, and sticks his hands into cactus even though he knows quite well that cacti and “owie” go hand-in-hand.

So my friend is obviously really tired. Sometimes she looks more defeated than I’ve ever seen her look before, but most of the time, when she talks to her son about his behavior, she tells him that she wants his heart to be full of kindness and is sad that it isn’t.

I thought that was really interesting.

He’s just two years old, so his understanding of a hardened heart is pretty limited, but her discussions with him are so beautiful because they aren’t limited to the moment; they aren’t just about his misbehavior of the moment. I’ve seen parents of all types trying to get their little hoodlums under control, and they nearly always make it about, “Stop doing that!” or “If you’ll behave, I’ll give you a cookie,” which places the focus on RIGHT NOW. Having tried to go for a short walk with this kiddo doing everything he could to disobey, I completely empathize with the need to just get him under control for the time being, but I also admire my friend’s emphasis on the whole person. She doesn’t want her son to just get through the day; she wants him to become a good man. And that kind of transformation doesn’t necessarily occur just because a kid has become obedient. It runs deeper than that.

When I think on how this applies to myself, I may not be a two-yr-old who wants to run out into the street, and I may even desire to do things that are good and right sometimes, but I’m thankful that God looks on me and knows my whole person, improving my heart rather than the behavior of an instant.

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