I was in high school when the teacher gruffly barked at me. Our normal homeroom teacher wasn’t at school and we had been sent to another classroom. This particular classroom was in the ROTC department and was under the fierce leadership of the one and only Major Stribling.
Major Stribling was a tiny, petite man whose demeanor demanded respect. His military uniform was always perfectly creased and his shoes shone to the point that you could see your reflection in them. He ruled with an iron fist. The Major and I did not know one another. I avoided anything ROTC or militarish because I had my own Colonel at home that I lived under. I knew the drill.
You’re wondering what my criminal offense was?
I spoke out of turn in the Major’s classroom by asking a classmate what the announcement was that had come over the loudspeaker. He asked me why I was talking without permission in HIS class. I told him that I couldn’t hear what was said during the morning announcements. He sternly told me (and I quote) “GO HOME AND CLEAN YOUR DAMN EARS OUT!”.
There were no lawsuits. I don’t currently own the Lancaster County School District. I never even filed a complaint. Major Stribling was never reprimanded and no negative mark ever made it to his military or personnel file.
My friends quickly informed the Major of his bad judgement call after that class. He didn’t know I was hearing impaired. He called my stepdad (The Colonel) that evening and apologized. Major Stribling apologized to me the next day. I saw a different side of the Major as he told me about his own daughter who had disabilities. I accepted the Major’s apology. He always took an interest in me after that day…. all the way through graduation.
Fast forward 35 years as I recall this story and I’m reminded of the many times I have screwed up. And said things I shouldn’t have. Or done things I shouldn’t have. We shouldn’t be so ready to sue, to shred the offender to pieces, to destroy their lives. Some things just warrant a apology and a lesson to be learned.
People mess up and we live in a messed up world.
My pastor recently preached a sermon about how our reactions to negative circumstances should depict who we are (in Christ), not who the offender is. I’ve thought about this message daily and the mere depth of those words.
God has forgiven me for much worse offenses than any person has ever committed against me. It blows my mind. Who can love me like that?
God can and does. May we all walk around today with a little more forgiveness in our hearts because of who we are not who others are.
In loving memory of Major Stribling,