|Top from left: Jalyn, Emily|
Bottom from left: Walt, M.J.
I've mentioned several times that I give a grade every day in all of my five classes and that included in each quiz/memory verse/test is a bonus question. Most often it's a random question gleaned from the news with the help of Google, such as What was Larry Brown's jersey number in college at North Carolina (11) or What was the mascot of our arch rivals, Seward, when I was in high school? (Blue Jays) I always give nine options of the screen so they have an 11% chance theoretically to get it right. Once a week, the bonus is a prayer request, something they would like me to take to the Lord. Occasionally, I give them the chance to answer a question with several sentences, such as Which beatitude for you is the toughest to live by? Do you know what's interesting? I have kids more excited about getting a random extra credit correct than making a good grade on the quiz! Many of us have that hitting the jackpot mentality at one time or another.
Two weeks ago, I added the following bonus question to a quiz in my Gospels' classes which are predominantly sophomores with a sprinkling of juniors and seniors:
What WCS student do you really admire and what about them has earned your admiration?
These extra credit questions are totally voluntary but almost everyone in my classes participates. That night, as I recorded the grades at home, I was fascinated by what I discovered. From the seventy-odd teenagers in these three periods, over forty picked one of the four students shown above: juniors Jalyn Kuykendall and Emily Kefer and sophomores Walt Hill and M.J. Nelson. Each received in the neighborhood of ten votes apiece although I hesitate to use the term votes as it was in no way an election. There are some things I think are interesting. I don't have either Jalyn or Emily in class this year. Three of the four have siblings in our freshman class. All are active in school extracurriculars, whether athletics/music/drama/student government and there are cross-overs in these areas with the four. But none of those have any bearing on why I chose this as my topic tonight. You see, there was a common theme in the writings which singled out Emily/Jalyn/M.J./Walt. Invariably, my Gospels' students used this one word to describe each of them: kind. There are several New testament passages which highlight the value of kindness in the walk of the believer:
One is 2 Peter 1, verse 5,6,7:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
Another is Galatians 5, verses 22 and 23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
You know, kindness has pretty good company in those oft quoted listings by Peter and Paul. And as I think about these four young people, I think they have the other traits which tie into kindness, as well. Maybe it's just that kindness is the avenue by which their walk with God is displayed. Many of the kids that picked these four are not close to them as far as I can discern. And yet, their character radar picked up on this characteristic that often is displayed in very subtle gestures and words and actions. This is intriguing to me: sixty % of my students nominated Jalyn/Emily/Walt/M.J. and yet we have about 275 high school kids. So how does 1.4% of the population make that kind of impact on the other 98.6%? I would guess the four could not tell you. They acted surprised when I informed them I was featuring them tonight. I think it is so ingrained into their hearts that kindness is akin to breathing for them. You ever hear folks call someone a breath of fresh air? I know four kids who are walking advertisements for Febreze. Emily and Jalyn and M.J. and Walt are the embodiment of the aroma of Christ that we hope will always linger in our halls at Westbury Christian School.
Applicable quote of the day:
"When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people."
Abraham Joshua Heschel
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org