“Come on in,” I encouraged the sixth grade teacher, doubling as the resident technology whiz. “Earlier today, someone shared that you took these actions. As we’ve discussed previously, individually and as a team, we’ve agreed that we will approach these kinds of situations following this process. What happened?”
At the end of the conversation, after listening to what the person had to say, I offered, “You know, when you came in, I had every intention to provide you with a written warning for the actions you took. And, next time, I will do so. But this time only, I will not.” And saying that, I ripped the written warning into pieces and dropped it in the trash.
This encounter came back to me as I read Amber Teamann’s Expecting vs Extending Grace. As the person on the receiving end of that chat above early in my career, I have felt the same sense of gratefulness, that feeling that a bad moment, potentially life-altering, had passed me by:
I was respectful of the officer’s power of a punitive action, but that he chose to give me the benefit of a learning experience. Source: Connected Principals
The benefit of a learning experience…it is a tool that I’ve used often with my own children, and occasionally, those who are entrusted to my care in my work. I’m not sure what indefinable quality–mercy?–slips into these interactions…perhaps, it is hope that a person will do better.
The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy
Source: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice
I have lived to see that hope realized, but also cast away, or worse, helplessly lost because some cannot overcome life habits that draw them towards destruction, moths to the flame.
To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children; to earn the
appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best
in others; to leave the world a bit
better, whether by a healthy child
a garden patch or redeemed
social condition; to know even
one life has breathed easier because
you have lived. This is to have
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I grow older, I hope that I’ll find the best in others, and that they may also find it in their hearts to render deeds of mercy for my own wrong-doing, dancing shadows that draw the eye on a bright day. In the end, perhaps, I can learn from grace. And, if not, then may I learn to seek grace when justice is too hard.