I evaluated a student whose family background is extremely diverse from my own in almost every way. When preparing for the meeting with the parent of this student, the evidence of a particular special education exceptionality was very evident from the testing I had completed, and as I practiced my oral report, I sewed it up quite neatly, I thought. I gave pertinent information but not too much, and reached a conclusion and that was that.
My team teases me occasionally, that I'm sort of the "Nazi control freak" where it comes to where people sit in meetings. I don't really care where most people sit, however, I always insist that I sit by the parent(s). It's easier for me to show them graphs I've prepared, and it's easier for me to just visit with them about their student instead of giving a clinical report. So at this particular meeting, I sat beside a mom whose life was one big struggle after another. Before I met her, it was somewhat easy for me to be critical of the decisions that she made in parenting her children, but you know, sitting beside her, and looking her in the eye as we talked about her student helped me drop all the prejudices that I don't like admitting I have. I began to view her as someone who simply was trying to survive in a gravely difficult environment and make the best decisions she could for her family - and no, it wasn't what I probably would have decided, but who knows? I've not been in her situation.
As we made eye contact and I shared with her about her student, she listened and she asked questions. Her eyes filled with tears at times, and when I got to the point in the report where I discuss our recommendations, something happened. Suddenly, the ramifications of the news I was delivering became real as I shared them with this real mom about her real student - and I felt the tears leaking out of my own eyes as my heart was overcome by compassion. I apologized and forward we went with all the paperwork. At the end of the meeting when we stood up to prepare to leave, I extended my hand to thank her for coming. She looked at my hand and brushed it away. Instead, she took a step forward and expressed her appreciation for what we had shared by giving me a big two armed hug. Two women, standing in a meeting, as opposite as you can get in almost every way came together in a common purpose and there wasn't a dry eye to be seen.
"Can we all just get along?" is a plea from a man who found himself thrust in the national spotlight by suffering a beating at the hands of law enforcement, but it's also something that we should strive for every single day. It's difficult to accomplish that when people do not turn loose of old wounds, old hurts, prejudices, judgments and preconceived ideas. But I'm here to tell you that it's not impossible. And the results of seeing people as they really are is life changing. If I haven't said it recently, I'm so thankful for my job. What an opportunity for growth I have - I learn more than I'll ever teach. My challenge for you this week - try to see people as they are, try to not let old notions cause you to judge unfairly, and be available for what God might want you to do in ministry in someone's life - even a 5 minute encounter can be an opportunity for you to stretch your thinking.