I observed the thin and awkward 12 year old boy dressed in all black a while. His T-shirt had something full of bad attitude written on it. His hair obscured his eyes in hip wisps. He sauntered to the baseball field flipping the back of other's heads with his glove. He taunted players who weren’t performing with major league talent. He ignored his mother when she asked a question and then wouldn’t look her in the eye when she demanded a response. In fact, I don’t think I saw him look in anyone’s eyes. His overall demeanor of hunched shoulders and angry face screamed “Unpleasant!” to me. The arrogant and judging part of me thought, “I sure hope my boys avoid him like the plague.” And I confess I didn’t make any charitable assumptions about his mom either.
Fast forward another year. I ran into this family again, and I wondered if anything had changed for this young man. I thought about his mother and how difficult seeking relationships with other moms in the sometimes stuffy and perfectionist home school world would be with a difficult son.
The first I saw of him on this new day, he was gently redirecting his toddler sister away from her mother who was busy in another room. He talked softly and kindly guided the little one by the hand.
My hard heart toward this boy completely and profoundly turned on a dime with this simple action.
I watched a little longer and saw him smiling and genuinely playing, not taunting, with my children and other boys. I looked back over my first impression of him, and I felt grief. I decided then and there to find an opportunity to speak with his mother, “I noticed a change in your son. He was so tender with his little sister a while ago. He saw that you were occupied and took time to take care of her needs. He seems more connected these days.”
The mother’s face lit up like a firefly on a warm summer night, “Thank you for saying that!” In the same moment, she visibly opened herself to me. She sat more erect and spoke with confidence I hadn’t noticed before.
I’m sorry I do not look for the good in all people, people who might get under my skin for one unimportant reason or another, when I realize the good’s amazing power. It’s downright transforming what acknowledging the best in people can do.
What if I lived a more inspired life where every person is just as valuable as another? What if I stopped looking at faults and intentionally sought after positive qualities in others? What if I was forgiving like that? I‘d be the person I want to become.