When we walked into my youngest daughter's classroom, she was dismayed to discover she was sitting next to a little boy that she remembered from first grade. In first grade, this little boy's behavior had been less than stellar, so my youngest was a bit apprehensive about sitting next to him again.
After shushing her disappointment in the classroom, the subject came up again when we got home. I reminded her that she didn't know how this little boy had behaved last year and that he may have changed a lot in a year. We talked about how important it was to give him a chance before labeling him based on his past behavior. She was skeptical, but she agreed. We prayed about it both before she went to bed and before she left for school yesterday.
When she came home after a half day of school, the first thing she had to say was, "You were right, mom, he has changed."
As our kids start a new school year, it's important to remind them to give other kids a chance. Whether it's a new kid in class or a child with a past reputation, we want our kids to go into the classroom with an attitude of acceptance.
Too often kids get pigeon-holed into a certain segment of childhood society early in their lives. It can be difficult to change the perceptions of other children and, sometimes, even adults. It's not fair, and it can hurt.
God always gives us a second chance. He's always ready to forgive us and renew a relationship with us. Jesus sought out people with whom the rest of society wouldn't give the time of day. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and criminals. He saw past the reputation to the heart beneath. He never doubted that people could change.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24 that anyone can be made new in Christ. We can shed the old self and put on the new. "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
Help your kids carry an attitude of acceptance through the school doors this year.
- Pray with your kids about any relationships that concern them. It may be a child they have had trouble with in the past or it may be a new child.
- Read the story of Zacchaeus with your kids from Luke 19:1-9. Talk about how Jesus could have ignored Zacchaeus because of his reputation. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a cheat. No one liked him, yet Jesus sought him out. He knew there was more to Zacchaeus than what was on the surface. Remind your kids that anyone can change, and it's important to give people a second chance.
- Remind your child of a time when they changed for the better. All of us have failed in our attitude or actions. By reminding your child of how much they have changed over a period of time, you help them to see that others can change as well.
- Encourage your child to include anyone who wants to play in their games on the playground. It's easy for kids to become exclusionary. Encouraging a policy of including everyone in their play opens up opportunities for other children to take part and become part of a group.