I often admire the words of other writers and wish I could pen things in such an eloquent way. I also sometimes listen to myself and wish I could say things differently. Why is it that we seem to say little things that hurt other people when in all actuality it is ourselves we are most frustrated with and wish was different? I am thin-skinned and I try so hard not to be. So, why is it that I don't consider that other people might be a bit thin-skinned, too?
When I was in the classroom daily (just last year!), I would often have what seemed like a productive day of mentoring students toward inquiring, learning, discovering, practicing, progressing, and growing in knowledge. Yet, one student might be having a 'less-than-studious-attitude' day and I seemed to dwell on the hurdle that we didn't overcome instead of the twenty-eight or twenty-nine others in the room we did. I have met with more than a dozen sets of parents (one night it was thirty-eight!) on parent conference day and all but one of those meetings would be a positive, supportive, growing relationship. Yet, that one encounter which was unpleasant seems to be what stands out in my mind - the one I hang on to time after time. I know that one reason I do this is because I wanted to be the best teacher that student had on any given day. I wanted to be the best teacher that student had during that year. I wanted to be the best teacher that student had in his/her educational career. While I know that isn't always possible, it has always been my goal to strive to be the best I can and to serve the needs of my students. So, negative criticism or a feeling of failure seems to linger with me because I usually see it as a way of pointing me toward improvement. Therefore, at times I was (and am) thin-skinned.
There are traits about ours parents, our siblings, and ourselves of which we are somewhat less than proud. We try all our lives to avoid the behaviors which are manifested in these traits which we don't desire. Yet, those old habits and behaviors still pop up and rear their ugly heads at times. It happened to me this morning and my sweet husband jokingly pointed it out to me. Immediately I was frustrated, agravated, and ashamed. Of course, I apologized. Yet, it hurt my feelings a little bit that I didn't realize I what I was doing and avoid it - that I had to have it pointed out to me. I was being thin skinned.
The interesting thing is that God has a way of nudging us into the realization that we need to improve ourselves and then tends to drive it home so we will better remember it - in hopes that there won't be a next time. When I sat down to read my emails and visit my favorite blogs, I stumbled across Ann's Caring Bridge update. She has been an inspiration to hundreds of us time and time again as she has been fighting the giant known as cancer. I was lucky enough to have her son in class during the worst year of her life when she was battling the giant the hardest. What a blessing she and her family were to me the entire time I was teaching at that little rural school. Below is an excerpt from Ann's update:
"Thin-skinned. I started thinking about how thin-skinned we can be sometimes. How we take the smallest thing and make it into a mountain. We let one word, one look ruin our day, cloud our vision, and make us into someone we would rather not be. Think of the last time someone said something to make you mad. How did you react? Did you let it consume your day? Chances are you just said yes. You probably allowed it to eat away at the precious time God has given you. Instead of spending time enjoying the company of your family at the end of the day, you griped about something (you insert the name) said. We are all guilty. Me...not as much as anymore.
I believe God has given us time here to do a lot of things and being thin-skinned is not one of them. Can you imagine where we would be if Jesus had been thin-skinned? Oooh, not a good thought. Just think the first time someone ridiculed him, he could have said, "Forget it. I enjoy making furniture. It won't talk back, criticize me, or crucify me. I'll just go home and get back to the business of being a carpenter." I am so glad that His love for His father kept him from quitting.
We need to stand tall each day in the glory of HIS grace and mercy. We need to let His love consume us not some words that fall out of someone's mouth. We need to concentrate on the blessings He showers us with DAILY!
Today has been a great day because my Lord and Savior continues to use the tragedies of cancer to teach me His sweet lessons of life."
Isn't that moving? By the way, Ann is doing well and her scans show her to be cancer free now. Thanks so much, Ann, for reminding me of the things God tries to tell me frequently and I choose not to pay attention.
Since I am writing this on 9/11, I think I should take part of the message that Ann shares and apply it to this day's experience. I've read magazine and newspaper articles, seen television tributes, read blog postings in remembrance of those who experienced the terrorist attacks. When I read the words of a widow, I am thankful for my own blessings and wish there was something more than prayer that I could do to comfort her loss. When I see photos of children who miss their parents, I am thankful for my own and feel blessed that we have one another while I also wish there was more I could do to fill the void in those children's lives. I know that God didn't plan or even implement those terrorist attacks. Yet, I do hope He is using the horror to make something good - right now the good thing is that we are more aware of how fortunate we are to have our freedom and the many blessings in our lives. To paraphrase Ann's words, God is using the tragedies of terrorists to teach me sweet lessons of life.