Matthew 7:1

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Eleven

Last week I shared an instance in which I let the preconceived notions of others affect the way I felt about my work study supervisor. That was the first of four instances I want to share, that in which the opinions of others caused me to make an erroneous first impression of another, but which resulted in positive experiences.

I have one additional example. I remember when I taught at Luttrell Elementary there was a teacher who made a point to read the permanent record of each of her students at the beginning of the year. I tried never to do that, for I didn’t want any preconceived notions to cloud my experience with any student.

For some students, no permanent record needs review—reputation precedes such pupils as they go “through the grades”. I remember a student that was the dread of every teacher. When that child entered the grade I taught, my teaching partner and I were dividing the students. After the parent requests were honored, most for the other teacher (was I the victim of preconceived notions?), the question arose as to who would have this particular student in their room.

“You will!” I was blatantly told. “I can’t handle that one with all these requests!” As I had the smaller number of students, it would have been difficult to argue the point. After all these years, I remember that mischievous student as being one of my favorites.

Strangely enough, though I began that year with the smaller number of students, every new student who enrolled in the grade I taught was assigned to the other teacher. I neither gained nor lost a student that entire year. It turned out to be one of the best classes I was privileged to teach. Sometimes being calm and taking life as it comes has its hidden rewards.

The second of four instances where first impressions have come into play for me are those instances in which I have incorrectly judged a person to be kind. Such instances always result in negative experiences.

I remember one of my high school classes, taught by the only teacher I ever had that I did not like. There was a student in that class that I attempted to strike up a conversation with. His surname was shared by relatives and neighbors of my half-brothers and –sisters. Surely someone with that surname would be a friendly person.

After a few short answers to a few leading questions, he looked at me and said, “Why don’t you just shut up?” I replied, “I was only trying to be friendly.” He let me know that he was not interested in any friendship from me. I certainly never spoke another word to him the rest of the year (not that he cared or noticed). I would not know him if he were to stand in front of me now, but I remember his name, which actually came up in conversation recently. A mutual friend of ours (the only thing we could possibly have in common) mentioned what a “good feller” he was. I replied, “You can’t prove it by me!”

To this day, I can proudly say I am not his relative. If I were to ever again be in this “gentleman’s” presence and know who he was, I should thank him for the valuable lesson he taught me—be more careful to gauge a person’s demeanor before wasting unnecessary conversation. Trying to talk to someone who could care less is like, a comedian once said, trying to catch a greased pig. All it does is make the pig mad and get you dirty.

My Aunt Lidia also once erroneously judged a person. After her husband died, Aunt Lidia wandered about, staying for a while with this friend or that relative. Aunt Lidia was very penurious (that’s a city word, in the country it means “stingy”), though she would often loan small amounts of money to the friends and relatives with whom she visited.

My father occasionally borrowed money from Aunt Lidia, and he once went searching for her to repay a loan. At one place, someone asked Dad why he was looking for Aunt Lidia, and my father was told, “That old woman don’t need that money.” Dad replied, “Maybe not, but she was good enough to loan it to me, and I’m going to pay her back.”
Unfortunately, there was one man to whom Aunt Lidia loaned money who not only did not repay the loan, but noted where she kept her money and stole from her. I was at Shoffner’s Laundromat when I was a teenager when Aunt Lidia, her sister (my Aunt Carrie) and niece (my cousin Bernice Larmer) came to do their laundry on a cold winter afternoon.

A man entered the laundromat and kissed Aunt Lidia on her forehead. He hugged Aunt Carrie, then shook Bernice’s hand. He proceeded to talk to Aunt Carrie and Bernice at great length while Aunt Lidia rummaged through her purse. Aunt Lidia finally found a tissue and proceeded to wipe her forehead vigorously where the man had kissed her.

When the man left, I asked Aunt Lidia, “Who was that man?” She replied, “That was W--- M-----, the sorriest man to ever stand on two feet. He stole my check.” I’m sure Aunt Lidia never read a word of Shakespeare, but I know after her unfortunate experience she would have understood Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet (I.iii.75-77): “Neither a borrower or a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”

Perhaps it is best to heed the words of Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (KJV). Having not always done so in my life, next week I will share the third of four instances where first impressions have come into play for (or against) me.

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