"My baby crawled under my desk and unplugged my computer during the exam. Can you please reset it?"
"I promise you, Ms. Walker. I got stuck in my car, and I couldn't get out. I had the keys in the ignition, but all of the electricity went out, but the car kept running. The windows and doors are electrical and they locked up. I had to call my mom to save me."
"Professor, the traffic was backed up to Brooklyn. Some truck rolled over and spilled eggs all over the highway." [Pause - then with laughter] "Do you offer 'egg-stra' credit?" I just stared at him.
"The judge made me come to court on Monday for my third DUI--it was serious--that's why I wasn't in class all these days."
"My town was flooded--did you hear about that?-- and we lost all power for 8 days. I couldn't do any work."
"I beg you. I beg you. I beg you. I had such a hard childhood. Please reset the exam."
"So I have a pet lizard named Houdini" said with sheepish grin. "Yes, he escaped the comfort of his warm abode, and I had to rescue him. He was in my brother's dirty sock. I thought he died already."
Professor #1: Admittedly I confess that I have become a bit jaded in my approach when listening to student excuses. My eyes glaze over, I brace for the rationale and explanation, and my mind and heart throw up a brick wall to fence in my frustration. I mean, the line is drawn in the sand, the picture is painted as black or white. I always quote the law: "In the syllabus it says..."
Professor #2: These poor kids. [Kids?] You know they have the toughest lives and real struggles. They have so many grandparents passing away. One student experienced the passing of 4 grandparents and 3 step grandparents this semester alone! My heart just broke for her. No, I didn't mind all the extra work and make-ups. What? Do most of my students get A's? Why, yes, of course, they do! They perform so well in my class.
Although it's probably a best practice to fall somewhere in between these extremes, I lean a bit more toward Professor #1. Simply put, I want us all to follow the rules. And sometimes really listening and trying to understand each student's perspective and life experience-however bizarre or odd or even mundane and ordinary ("I overslept." "My car wouldn't start." "I didn't feel well." "My family moved to another state." "I got a new job."), can be positively exhausting to me. It's like I want to say, "Grow up. Take the hit. Let's move on."
Until, of course, I'm on the other side, and I am the one in need of grace.
Occasionally, I carry this lack of empathy and compassion into my family and personal life. And this is really my point. I may quickly become frustrated or disgruntled when someone doesn't understand the simplest of things or even when I misunderstand or am misunderstood. I can find myself a bit calloused and legalistic if I'm not careful. I may become short, sarcastic, or snippy. Biblically speaking, this would smack of "pride" or "arrogance" or "impatience," and simply put, these are sins.
Can Jesus relate to dealing with a gazillion people from different backgrounds with different needs? Of course, He can!
But how did He respond? Once He had just received news that His dearest cousin had died. In His grief, He set off to be alone, but when He arrived at his destination, there was a crowd waiting for Him. His heart was aching and He wanted to be by Himself, but He "had compassion on them" (Matthew 14:13).
If there is anything we can say of Jesus, it's that He was not self-centered. We never see Him wallow in self-pity. He poured Himself out again and again.
In this divine romance, I am called to do the same--day in and day out with my loved ones as well as my students. The compassion that Jesus repeatedly showed was a deep and tender benevolence and kindness. So when I find myself impatient, frustrated, sad, or tired, I can choose to practice compassion and empathy. Instead of seeing others as "obstacles" to my daily agenda, I want to treat others the way I would like to be treated. May my default be to believe what I am told unless there is obvious mounting evidence to the contrary.
The Holy Spirit will help me especially during these times if I ask. I can also make sure that I am spending time alone with God to recharge my battery and refuel my tank.
In my heart and mind, I really do desire to stay in the "love zone" (Dr. Leaf term). Besides, if I don't, then it seems that I am the one giving the excuse.
My Prayer for Today
Father, help me today to show patience, empathy, and compassion in every situation
and to never tire of doing good.
Help me to be focused on others and their needs instead of my own.
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