All right. I admit it. I’m a geek. I always have been. I’m one of those crazy people who actually went back to visit his favorite teachers years after I left their class. Of course, now that I’ve been out of high school for almost twenty years, most of my teachers have long since retired. Heck, they were old when I had them, so their eventual retirement was sure to be just around the corner.
My first grade teacher, though, was still working for the school system the last time I saw her just a few years ago. She and people like her have an incredible commitment to their mission of education. To people like her, it’s as much a calling as it is a job. And those rules… what on earth were they thinking?
For some reason, most teachers I had had this rule that if they turned off the lights, it meant to be quiet. Honey, when you turn off the lights, I’m going to sleep. Of course I’ll be quiet – until I start snoring. Then it’s off to the principal’s office. Oh well.
Elementary school was one of those strange places where everything was supposed to make sense. Somehow I was supposed to grasp the idea that doing chin-ups in gym class was supposed to make me stronger. No, they made me a laughingstock because I could only grunt and twist to get my eyes to be level with that infernal bar. I hated gym class.
I especially hated gym class when I found out that dodge ball was just another excuse for the bigger kids in my class to use me for target practice… even after I was tagged out. That’s what I get for being in speech therapy. I always did wonder why all the kids who used the ‘th’ sound for their ‘s’ sounds were picked on so much. Now, I didn’t have that particular speech problem. I just tended to talk “with marbles in my mouth” as my mom said. Since I am hearing impaired, I would talk in the back of my head so I could hear myself. As a result, it would sound a little muffled to everyone else.
Sometimes I encounter people who, when they find out that I’m deaf, show immediate sympathy. “I’m so sorry!” they say. What on earth is there to be sorry for? I actually like being deaf sometimes. For example, as I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel just off a busy Atlanta interstate. Instead of the constant barrage of road noise, my room is as quiet as can be when I remove my hearing aid. I never hear barking dogs, noisy TVs in the next room, or the occasional tornado going through the house. I love my sleep.
I learned early on that being mostly deaf had serious advantages. The biggest advantage was that I could use the ever-ubiquitous selective hearing—that all men have—to my own benefit. Yes, indeed. All men have selective hearing. I just have an excuse. My fourth grade teacher found this out.
She was really irritated with me one day. I don’t remember what it was, but she chewed me out “up one side and down the other” as we say in the South. She spat out her words from her reddened face. Of course, I nodded and cowered like I should have. She then pointed at my seat and demanded that I sit down. I did.
I then turned my hearing aid back on.
Strangely, I don’t remember the following five minutes. It’s all a blank. Alas, some mysteries will never be solved. Naturally, she was one of my favorite teachers. Now if I could only bribe her to never tell that story of when my pants ripped in the seam of my butt during class.
Yes, all men have selective hearing. We only hear what we want to hear. “Honey, would you take out the trash?” becomes “Honey?” For some reason, our minds block out the rest. Usually because we know that any sentence that starts with “honey” can’t be a good one. The nice thing is that I can claim that I have a legitimate excuse for my selective hearing. “Oh, darn. My hearing aid battery is going out. What were you saying?”
Unfortunately, we allow that selective hearing to creep into our walk of faith. I’m not talking about during sermons. It’s hard to hear anything when someone is sleeping. So that’s not the issue. It’s the other six days of the week. Our conscience has selective hearing too. Do we keep that extra dollar that the cashier gave us for change? Or do we give that extra dollar to the guy at the street corner?
Jesus called us to reach out and to minister to the ‘least of these.’ It’s amazing how much we tune out that very thing. I do this all the time. We always try to use wisdom in situations like that, but gosh… it’s hard, isn’t it? Not everyone is just looking for a buck for a quick fix. Sometimes it’s legitimate.
But instead, we tune it out, don’t we? I certainly do. Maybe there really are angels in disguise. So what if we give a dollar—or even a quarter—to that guy on the street corner? It won’t change their life. It won’t harm ours. But it just might soften our own hearts so that we can hear the voice of God a little more clearly…
…and less selectively.