Judge For Yourself

14 Aug

“Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.”  ~ Henry James

It was the summer of my sixth grade year.  Each summer, our family went to Arkansas to fish on Bull Shoals Lake as well as the White River.  It was a carefree time of jumping in the lake to cool off, catching oodles of fish to eat as well as freeze and bring back home, and enjoying each other’s company without having the worries and duties of back home.

However, that particular year, we left for vacation later than usual and, in the process, missed grade school registration.  My mom decided that she was not going to call the school but was simply going to “walk in” on the first day.  That is what we did.

We were walking down the hallway and saw the principal, Sr. Theodolinda coming toward us.  After she greeting us, my mom said, “We were on vacation and didn’t have a chance to register Michael for school.”  Sister asked, “What grade?”  My mom said, “6th.”  Sister stopped at a door and opened it.  The words out of her mouth chilled me to the bone: “Sr. Aquila, do you have room for one more student?”  NNNoooooo! My blood ran cold.  Not Sr. Aquila.  She had the reputation of being the meanest nun in the entire world.  It was said that her death stare would burn a hole into any student she looked at too long.  It was even rumored that she may have eaten students.

We are talking very serious fear here.  I begged to be put into another classroom.  The principal told me there was room in that classroom and that was the classroom to which I was to be assigned.  Like a prisoner going to death row, I hung my head and walked in to my destruction. Sr. Aquila told me to have a seat at a certain desk and then began to tell us her rules for the year.  The students in the classroom looked at one another and the unspoken words were clear to us all: “We’re doomed.”

Sr. Aquila was the best teacher that I had.  She was impish and knowledgeable and fun-loving. She was strict but not overly so.  She merely had rules to shape us and guide us, not to destroy us.  I had more fun in her class and, probably, learned more that year than in many other years because she made learning fun.

I also learned a very valuable lesson:  Do not allow others to form my opinions.  I had listened to so many students about Sr. Aquila that I believed her reputation rather than wanting to give her a chance.  Obviously, the people from whom I heard “all about her” were students who were troublemakers and, thus, incurred some justifiable wrath.  I was put on her list a couple of times but tried to hard not to get in trouble because I did not want her to be disappointed in me.

Sometimes, we are unwilling to give others a chance even if we really do not know who they are.  We rely on the observations of others rather than on first hand experience.  That is so unfair to them and to us.

FAITH ACTION:  Do not allow the talk of others to color your judgments.  Make sure that you are open-minded to all today.