At the beginning of my junior year in high school I went into the school library to do some studying.
Our school librarian—I’ll call her Mrs. White— was an older woman with an angry attitude. Most of the students were afraid of her.
This morning was no exception. She called me up to the check-out desk with a face as dark and threatening as a thunder cloud.
“Dena, you checked out a book back in May and you haven’t returned it yet.” She could have said this nicely and quietly to avoid embarrassing me. But, no, she’d said it loud enough and with such an angry tone that everybody in the library knew I was in trouble.
I’d always been one of those quiet, follow-the-rules, good student types. My friends at a nearby table giggled at my embarrassment.
The librarian’s face was deeply lined—probably etched into her skin by life’s many hurts and indignities. So I answered her with sweetness and respect. When I finished explaining the reason for not returning the book right away, her whole demeanor changed.
I mean, really changed.
The next time I went into the library, I caught Mrs. White’s eye. We exchanged smiles.
For the next two years, my dark and stormy librarian “sunnied up” whenever she saw me.
Now, whenever I remember high school, I think about Mrs. White and wonder what happened in her life to have made her such a hostile person. Was it her childhood? Had she suffered some sort of emotional trauma? Was she bullied. Or battered? Or did she have a life without spiritual hope?
As high school students, we tended to judge others, including teachers or staff merely on externals. So, naturally, Mrs. White was not one of our favorite people on campus.
Now that we’re older and have suffered our own wounds and set-backs, most of us former students realize that life can be perilous, physically and emotionally. A smile and kind, respectful words can soothe a hurting person way more than a cold shoulder and ridicule.
The little bit of grace that I showed Mrs. White is dwarfed by the Grace God has shown me by adopting me as His child, and by His daily patience and loving kindness toward me.
I hope I’ll keep that in mind every day as I rub shoulders with irregular people.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6 NIV Bible)