She was one of the plain ones in third grade.  No, wait.  She was less than plain. Her clothes came from her older sister, who got her clothes from HER older sister.

Besides, she never seemed quite as clean or as groomed as the other girls in the room.  They would look at her and think, “Doesn’t she know? Doesn’t she care? How does she stand herself?”

And what did the boys think?  If there was any evidence of girl germs in the third grade, she was prime evidence.

No one asked her to work on a school project.  She was inevitably the last one picked for teams of any kind: whether it was spelling bees or baseball games during lunch time, it didn’t matter.

Invite her to a birthday party?  It was rare. It took someone’s mommy that insisted an invitation be given to everyone in the class to include her.

And yes, other girls and boys found themselves targeted in similar ways.  The snubs, the names, the teasing, getting pantsed in the bathroom.  The teasing, the judging, the shaming, the name calling – all heaped upon kids who didn’t deserve it.  And the whole time, we knew they didn’t deserve it.

And you’re going sit there and tell me we didn’t have someone like this in your class?  That’s pure blindness, because these kids were there in more numbers than any of us are willing to admit.  The way we treated them festered and erupted into the habits we employ even now as adults.  We pick on them, we label them, we literally and figuratively spit on them, just like we did to those kids in elementary school.

It is time to break this habit – and it takes strength.  Can we alter our behaviors enough to at least be able to make up for what we did to those boys and girls in the third grade?  Can we shut off the arrogance?  Can we dispel the hate, the anger, the meanness?      

Human society has vacillated between barbarism and high levels of culture over and over again.  Society can change, and so can we.

These human tendencies, so unproductive, so ill-applied, are strong, but can be overcome. Turning off the innate tendencies of arrogance, judgment, hate, fear and the like is difficult to do.

Just as we have physical muscles that we can strengthen, I believe there are spiritual muscles.  They are love, joy, peace, faithfulness, kindness, graciousness, goodness, patience and self-control.  And just like those physical muscles, we have to practice and train those spiritual muscles to become the tools we need to treat each other with more civility. 

So, perhaps we need to dig beyond such human nature, beyond biology, and into the possible world of divine direction.

Ultimately, it is our choice to turn off those elementary school habits and to gain use of those spiritual muscles, and it is not easy.

 It’s our call.