By James Dobson, in Hide or Seek, 1974, pages 176-178.
A woman told me recently about her experience as a room mother for her daughter’s fourth-grade class. She visited the classroom on Valentine’s Day to assist the teacher with the traditional party on that holiday. This mother said the teacher announced that the class was going to play a game which required the formation of boy-girl teams. The moment the teacher instructed the students to select a partner, all the boys immediately laughed and pointed at the homeliest and least-respected girl in the room. She was overweight, had protruding teeth, and was too withdrawn even to look anyone in the eye.
“Don’t put us with Hazel,” they all said in mock terror. “Anybody but Hazel! She’ll give us a disease! Ugh! Spare us from Horrible Hazel.” The mother waited for the teacher to rush to the aid of the beleaguered little girl. But to her disappointment, nothing was said to the insulting boys. Instead, the teacher left Hazel to cope with that painful situation in solitude.
Ridicule by one’s own sex is distressing, but rejection by the opposite sex is like taking a hatchet to the self-concept. What could this devastated child say in reply? How does an overweight fourth-grade girl defend herself against nine aggressive boys? What response could she make but to blush in mortification and slide foolishly into her chair? This child, whom God loves more than the possessions of the entire world, will never forget that moment, (or the teacher who abandoned her in this time of need).
If I had been the teacher of Hazel’s class on that fateful day, those mocking, joking boys would have had a fight on their hands. Of course, it would have been better if the embarrassment could have been prevented by discussing the feelings of others from the first day of school. But if the conflict occurred as described, with Hazel’s ego suddenly shredded for all to see, I would have thrown the full weight of my authority and respect on her side of the battle.
My response would have carried this general theme: “Wait just a minute! By what right do any of you boys say such mean, unkind things to Hazel? I want to know which of you is so perfect that the rest of us couldn’t make fun of you in some way. I know you all very well. I know about your homes and your school records and some of your personal secrets. Would you like me to share them with the class, so we can all laugh at you the way you just did at Hazel? I could do it! I could make you want to crawl in a hole and disappear. But listen to me! You need not fear. I will never embarrass you in that way. Why not? Because it hurts to be laughed at by your friends. It hurts even more than a stubbed toe or a cut finger or a bee sting.”
“I want to ask those of you who were having such a good time a few minutes ago: Have you ever had a group of children make fun of you in the same way? If you haven’t, then brace yourself. Someday it will happen to you, too. Eventually you will say something foolish and they’ll point at you and laugh in your face. And when it happens, I want you to remember what happened today.”
(Then addressing the entire class), “Let’s make sure that we learn something important from what took place here this afternoon. First, we will not be mean to each other in this class. We will laugh together when things are funny, but we will not do it by making one person feel badly. Second, I will never intentionally embarrass anyone in this class. You can count on that. Each of you is a child of God. He molded you with His loving hands, and He has said that we all have equal worth as human beings. This means that Susie is neither better nor worse than Charles or Mary or Brent. Sometimes I think maybe you believe a few of you are more important than others. It isn’t true. Every one of you is priceless to God. God loves every boy and girl in this room, and because of that, I love every one of you. He wants us to be kind to other people, and we’re going to be practicing that kindness through the rest of this year.”
When a strong, loving teacher comes to the aid of the least respected child in his class, as I’ve described, something dramatic occurs in the emotional climate of the room. Every child will utter a sigh of relief. The same thought will be bouncing around in many little heads, “If Hazel is safe from ridicule—even overweight Hazel—then I must be safe, too.”
Matthew 9:36 — When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Psalm 82:4 — Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Jeremiah 31:3 — The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Matthew 18:10a — (Jesus said), “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.”
Ephesians 4:32a — Be kind and compassionate to one another.
I John 3:1a — See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless…
God, you see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness.