It was day two of teaching. In the midst of a simple roll call, I said her name and she rolled her eyes.
A flash of anger shot through me.
Who does she think she is? Can she hate me already?
I moved on with class and I reminded myself to love her. Because, really, that is all I could do. While I could have made a big deal about it, I have long since learned to choose my battles. And while I will never say that I always pick the right battles, I have learned to not make all of them battles.
In this situation, now a mere week or so after that encounter, I am glad I did not enter into that battle.
She is everything I was not in high school. With an outgoing personality and a commanding presence, she fills the room in a way I never did. That is fine, because it has never really been my desire to be the center of everyone’s attention. But, honestly, sometimes I have to work to overcome an immediate dislike for people when they are the dominant force in the room.
So I attempted to be patient with her and not let her natural response to things be the cause of much frustration. After a few days of more encounters, I began to get over my initial reservations. I didn’t take her too seriously and yet I didn’t belittle her. Finally, a day came where we were smiling and laughing together. I watched a few of them eyeing each other early in class and, while I didn’t say anything, I made sure they saw that I noticed the silent exchange. Then I just shook my head and smiled. They giggled over my reaction. A few times when she asked a question, I answered it with a smile. And as I listened to her question, I saw an openness and a sincerity replace the eye roll of a few days earlier.
I’m not claiming she will be an easy student to get along with this semester. But I’m not as concerned as I was day two when her eyes rolled and I worried we might face World War III. Her very person is reminding me to be slower to make judgments about people’s personalities.
She is also teaching me the challenge of choosing to love. In another class, I was talking about how, if we are honest, there is something about Catholicism that rubs us the wrong way. Each person must have at least one thing that is a struggle for them to accept, believe, or put into practice. It isn’t bad for us to have questions about the faith as long as we are seeking answers and open to understand what the Church teaches. Desiring to push for greater vulnerability with my classes, I told them that one thing for me is a that it can be a struggle to love those who persecute me or simply to love those who frustrate me. I vaguely told the story of doing roll call and a student rolling their eyes. I admitted that my initial response was one of anger and not immediate prayer. It is a heart in progress and I wanted to share with my students the reality that I have not fully arrived. The more one knows me, the more one can see the imperfections. In the midst of those imperfections, however, I am striving to choose to love, even when the initial sentiment is less than pleasant.
This student of mine is helping me to grow in love. It is a small way, but that is what I need. I’m glad I didn’t write her off on day two when she rolled her eyes at me. I fully expect to have a few more challenging days with her, but I am excited to learn more about who she is and to see her authentic self unfold.
“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta