It was almost noon, time for recess, and the two boys huddled in the back of the classroom. Their whispered conversation alerted my ears to that which I was definitely not supposed to hear.
“Do you have it?” J.T. asked.
“Yeah, I got it,” Tony replied as he patted the side pocket of his warm-up pants.
I turned and with one eyebrow raised queried, “Got what?”
J.T. looked away as if ignoring the teacher would make me disappear, but Tony, true to form, spilled the beans. Like a magician reaching into his hat of tricks, Tony slipped his hand into his pocket and with a singular motion produced… battery operated nose hair clippers!
“What in the world, boys!” I cried, my eyes popping open nearly as wide as my mouth.
“It’s a nose hair clipper,” Tony informed me with a look of pride on his face.
“Boys!” I continued, “What in the world would possess you to bring such a thing to school?”
Tony’s countenance darkened as a look of genuine hurt clouded his face. “They’re nose hair clippers,” he repeated. “See, the blades is out. I took ‘em out. They was my dad’s. It’s the only thing he ever gave me to remember him by. I sleep with ‘em at night.”
J.T. looked at me as if I were a complete dunce. “Yeah, we ain’t gonna hurt nobody with it. Tony’s proud of them clippers. They was his dad’s.”
“Well, just let me hold it for you, Tony. You can have it back at the end of the day. But, it isn’t a good idea to bring something that can cut or runs on batteries to school
Later J.T. took me aside to counsel me privately, “If you woulda taken ‘em away from me, I woulda been mad. ‘Specially if my dad had given ‘em to me.”
I explained that I had only taken the clippers away to keep Tony from getting in trouble for bringing a potentially dangerous object to school and that I fully planned to give them back to him at the end of the day. J.T. agreed with my actions but went on to inform me that the clippers were Tony’s prized possession and my obvious lack of understanding or appreciation of that fact showed my ignorance. After all, these were no ordinary nose hair clippers – they were a gift from Tony’s dad.
Fearful of the school’s “zero tolerance policy” and caught up in rules and propriety as I was, I had clearly disrespected Tony’s treasure – his dad’s gift to him. Duly chastised, I determined that in the future I would try to get to the bottom of my students’ “misdeeds” before simply assuming they were knowingly acting out. It has made me a better teacher than before.
Does God do this with us, or is he shocked at our misbehaviors? Does he laugh at our childish ways, our insecurities? When he looks at me, does he only see what I’ve done yet again, or does he take into account my father dying when I was but a little girl? Does he consider that many of us have only nose hair clippers to comfort us in bed at night?
To be sure, God’s holiness both deserves and demands justice. He, and only he, has the right to such a standard of perfect righteousness. Yet in his mercy, he freely offers grace. I am beyond thankful for this. God – my Father, my loving Father. Jesus – my Giver of Mercy. The Holy Spirit – my Teacher, better than any before.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8
Written and submitted by By J. Hartley