People have called me many things in my lifetime so far.
Adjectives that I have heard others use in reference to me include bossy, unpredictable, explosive, bossy, passionate, opinionated, and a lot of bossy. I sealed the deal of having others call me names when I signed up for an English teaching major in college. If there is one thing that this does is make people around me uncomfortable as they speak and see me as some kind of grammar police (and that is the kind noun!).
I find that a well-placed incorrect grammar moment can go a long way to make a point. The examples of this could be listed on a bathroom stall for entertainment purposes. Perhaps I and several other English majors would be the only ones amused by it, but I find this hysterical.
Saying that ain’t right with a slight country twang at just the right moment can really emphasize whatever wrong has occurred around me. This has to be placed at the appropriate place, at the appropriate moment, and in only the infrequent occasions. When used correctly, though, the point is clear; no question will exist about how one feels. Saying that isn’t right with a slightly haughty English accent might bring home a strong feeling as well, but the feeling is not the same as that ain’t right with the country twang.
The older I get, the more situations elicit the that ain’t right-type of response from me.
In more than a decade in education, I have seen family situations that have made me think that ain’t right. Wealthy parents who ignore their children completely such as the family who left their first grader in my care well after 6 p.m. (the family was charged for that extra time!) on a regular basis is one example. One day, the father picked up the student wearing sweatpants. It was obvious to me and the child that the father had been home already. That just ain’t right.
Another situation that seems to make my blood boil is teachers who will not differentiate their instruction to meet the needs to students above and below the critical middle mass in their classroom. This happens to be illegal. As a parent of students who are above this mass and move rather quickly through concepts, these teachers make me say that ain’t right. I am pretty sure that parents of students below the middle mass feel the same way.
As a parent and a teacher, I am shocked at the way that other students treat each other. My children attended school with a student who, due to a disability, struggled to walk through the hallways each day from class to class. Typically, the student had a paraprofessional assigned to assist in this task, and (let’s be honest) to protect the student from other students. One day, the student’s aide was not present for whatever reason, and the not-so-kind group of kids saw their chance to do what they had waited to do all year – trip the student on the trip from one class to another. I am proud to say that both of my own children reported their indignation in response to these actions. What those kids did - that ain’t right.
While I understand the basic psychology behind the occurrence of things that are not right, I am still shocked that these things happen. These examples barely touch the tip of the iceberg of all of the things that are out of whack in our society. Our world is full of things that ain’t right - graffiti, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders…let alone how we treat each other, our children, and ourselves.
Some days, I literally want to hold my head in my hands as I feel overwhelmed. Other days, I want to conquer it all and make it right. The more I look to the Bible for answers, though, the more I realize that these actions are not unique to our current society and that they are not likely to end any time soon. Since the entering of sin into the world, things simply have not been right. In fact, God himself knew the minute that rebellion had entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the fruit. I imagine that in His Spirit He felt the crash of rightness and knew the feeling of that ain’t right instantly.
At a conference yesterday, I heard the story of a student who had graduated with his high school diploma from Stadium View School which is housed in the Hennepin County (Minnesota) Juvenile Detention Center. As he shared his story, that ain’t right is all that could go through my head. He acknowledged that he committed the crimes that had put him into the criminal system; however, he did not have much of a fighting chance before he joined a gang at a young age and started offending shortly thereafter. As the oldest of four with a single mother and an absent dad who had fathered fifteen children before him, he looked for acceptance somewhere and found it in a street gang.
Interestingly enough, the young man who stood before us did not speak as one without hope. Having found support in the teachers at Stadium View, he discovered a world full of affirmation that did not require gang initiations, criminal acts, or fathering multiple children with multiple mothers. Instead, he found that he could change his life, attend college, and make a life for himself and his daughter that differs from the one he knew.
In the same way that the young man who spoke at the conference yesterday found hope, so can we. Unlike this young man, though, I refuse to put my hope in the teachers at Stadium View or in any other person. All of us are flawed and will let each other down. We will be both the causes and the recipients of actions or moments that make us say that ain’t right. Instead of placing my hope on the people around me, I put my hope, as the hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” suggests, the blood of Jesus and His righteousness.
All other ground is sinking sand.