Recently, a childhood friend shared their 3rd grade class photo on Facebook, and the rest of us who had been in 3rd grade with her zoomed in on the picture to find ourselves. Except that some of us—including me and my two best friends for the next umpteen years—weren’t in that class. We had a different teacher.
Nostalgia and chaos and hilarity ensued…
What was our teacher’s name?
No, wait, wasn’t she our 5th grade teacher?
Oh, yeah… I remember 5th grade.
That teacher kept giving me demerits for talking.
She kept sending me to the principal’s office.
Do you remember Big Bertha [the principal’s paddle!!!]?
And so on…
What most impressed me in this exchange was that each of us had a different significant memory from the different classes and teachers and schools. K’s memories of Ms. C aren’t at all fond, because she kept getting punished. I, on the other hand, loved how she’d bring her two-year-old twins to visit our class. And I liked how Ms. S taught us to diagram sentences. (Yes, really. I loved it! It was like math!) But M remembers how Ms. S threatened students with the stapler. (!!)
This summer I read a book* in which each of the characters was carrying grudges and also self-conscious burdens about their pasts with various family members. Over the course of the story, apologies were offered and rifts were repaired. Consistently, though, in the process of reconciliation, it was discovered that the persons involved didn’t agree on what harm had been done. So, one would say, “I’m sorry I ____,” and the other would reply, “What? THAT’s not what you need to apologize for. I didn’t even remember that. But when you ____, THAT hurt me…”
So I’ve been thinking about my own past actions and the things—from age 9, or 17, or 20, or 32, or 46—that still make me cringe when I remember. And I wonder how many of those things are remembered only by me. And how many other things made no significant impression on me, but were remarkable (for good or ill) for others involved.
It seems both impossible and critical to know—or at least to be open to hearing—how someone else experienced the “same” thing, and yet also had a completely different (and even utterly contradictory) experience from mine.
Let’s keep talking. And sharing our stories. And re-examining them.
Yours in faith and growth,