Sunday, June 23, 2013

It's All About Grace (at the middle school)

by Brad Duncan

Hello all you fans, patiently waiting for me to post again - just kidding! - but it has been a while and I'm back at it again.

I had an interesting experience at my son's graduation & awards event this week at the middle school.  The event was about 1 hour of appreciating the kids in the eighth grade class, as they leave and move on to high school.  A slide show reminisced on the good times and on the class field trip to Washington DC, this year.  Then came the awards given in each subject, for the best student in the whole school at such-and-such, and the best score in such-and-such test.  I've come to think that the academic awards are great - for that kid - but sure do leave out all the other average achievers.  Anyway that wasn't the interesting experience, that was just business as usual.

The interesting experience was the students who won various awards for character and leadership, etc.  The teachers praised these students for being such great kids all around, and such good examples.  But what were their notable qualities, that stood above the rest?  What traits was the school the most proud of in the rising generation?  In a word - Grace. The school didn't use this word, but in fact it's what they were praising this kids for.

The kids were praised when they showed equality to people of all types, and went out of their way to include others.  One of the awards specifically was related to helping to break down barriers of inequality and foster inclusion of people with differences.  The school valued this type of behavior as being a model for others to follow.  The school's "we stand together" group or something like that, was an extra-curricular club that tried to tackle issues around inequality in the school and community.  Though not specifically mentioned, no-doubt the word "inclusion" indicated that they grappled with prejudice against gays, as well as social class prejudices.

The kids were also praised for kindness, social activism and social justice.  If they volunteered to help the under-privileged, they were recognized for it.  They were models for others to follow.  Kids were also praised for offering encouragement and support to their classmates who struggled in certain subjects.  Being a good student was GOOD, but being a good student that had compassion and kindness toward the less-proficient students, was GREAT!  Caring gets some credit at school these days.

Maybe there is hope for the next generation -- instead of just teaching them to compete and win, school seems to value, with their awards and praises anyway, the student that cares.  Isn't that refreshing?

So, back to Grace - what's so refreshing about this experience?  I have to go to a secular school ceremony for kindness, justice and inclusiveness to be praised as being the hallmark of leadership in the next generation.  I have to the secular world, rather than to the church and Christians, to hear about kindness and Grace.  My town community cares about Grace more than my Christian community, in some ways.  When's the last time that you heard Christians were praised for showing these qualities?  Aren't Christians praised instead for their discipline and spirituality, and how they seek after God's heart?  Yet, the discipline and spirituality should lead them to Grace - to leading others in kindness, justice and equality.  Seeking God more sincerely should lead us toward unconditional love for others - and not just to personal spirituality.  Now THAT would be refreshing!

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