|"Don't Judge Me", oil, |
by Debbie Grayson Lincoln
For most of my 71 years, I have been a fairly judgmental person – but I’m trying hard to change.
I’ve spent a good part of my waking hours passing judgments on situations, events, and people. I judged every situation as either good or bad, helpful or detrimental; an event either worked to my advantage or didn’t; and a person was either right or wrong, nice or not so nice, young or old, smart or not so smart. It’s surprising that I didn’t thoroughly exhaust myself with all this passionate handing down of verdicts and pronouncements.
Truth is, some time ago, I decided to stop being a full-time judge – to retire from the judge’s “bench”, you might say. I was weary from having to constantly appraise everything that came my way, and I decided I wanted to enjoy instead of judge. I wanted to sit by – or swim in – the river of life and simply take pleasure in its surprising movements, without having to continuously give my considered opinions about how well or poorly it was flowing.
It’s an interesting metaphor, and it brings me around to my privileged role as an English teacher. Over my long and lucky years in the classroom, I took seriously my obligation to judge my students’ performances in class, but I always did it with the clear understanding that my judgments were fairly superficial, and, in the big picture, fairly insignificant. Judging whether my students could write a shipshape essay or use semicolons with precision was an essential part of my job, but those academic pronouncements of mine said almost nothing about the vast and undiscovered mystery that was each student’s life. Those lives flowed past me in the classroom like mighty and inscrutable rivers, and what I enjoyed most about teaching was trying to simply appreciate that flow, those irreplaceable adolescent human beings, those matchless creations of the universe. A river changes constantly and sometimes astonishingly, and so did all my approximately 600 Pine Point students. Every chance I got, I put down my judge’s gavel and simply appreciated the remarkable and beautiful rivers of their lives.
Now, in my upcoming retirement, I’m hoping to do the same, more and more, with my still steadily flowing and still surprising life.