My middle school chorus teacher taught me more in forty-five minutes everyday than I’ve learned in all the rest of the time I’ve spent at school combined. I’ll never be able to describe just how incredible she is; you’ll have to meet her yourself. And what a blessing it is to have met her. I have a beautiful letter that she wrote and gave to us before the end of our eighth grade year. Part of it says:
I pray you’ve learned that we are all different in this world, and that is okay. Different does not always equal wrong. When others are different, realized it, and move on. Do not laugh, judge, point fingers, or look down on anyone because of it. Celebrate your differences. A sign of true maturity is being able to accept others differences without judgement. You don’t have to agree with everyone about their lifestyle or choices. Just be careful how you react to the differences.
I think she reminded us every single day not to judge other people. We probably needed to hear it everyday because sometimes not judging can be the hardest thing in the world.
I remember being in Washington, D.C. with chorus, band, and strings at the end of eighth grade. We were going to take a picture standing in front of the White House, and there was a man in the street of a religion other than Christianity. He might have been protesting; he might have been praying. He wasn’t speaking English, so I don’t know for sure. There we were- 120 students from a small town in South Carolina, a place where we really don’t deal with that much diversity. And all I remember was standing there with a kindhearted friend of mine as most of the students proceeded to laugh, point, look down on, and judge the man in the street. I was at a loss for what to do as we stood there repeating the phrase, “be nice” over and over again. I saw my teacher and I could tell she was disappointed in the way we were acting. It was the meanest act I think I’ve ever been a part of. It didn’t matter how many times we’d been told not to judge other people. When we got out in the real world, it was like everything she ever told us went out the window. We’re human and we mess up. We need that daily reminder to not judge the people around us.
James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
I can honestly say that I am the person I am today because of chorus. Because of every song we sang. Because of every sermon we listened to. Because of every time I walked into a classroom that smelled like the season. Because of every kind word I received. Because of Mrs. Byrd I love music, care more about the person I am than the grades I make, strive every single day to treat everyone with compassion and love, and avoid judging others. I know I don’t always succeed in that endeavor, but I hope she would be proud of me for trying. She told our class one time, “I want to be like Shannon Duke when I grow up.” But I pray that I can grow up to be just like her.
1 Corinthians 16:23-24,
If you’re reading this, can we sing soon? We can eat lunch in your office and pretend you’re still my teacher. You have blessed my life in ways that no one will ever be able to understand. I’ll never be able to thank you enough. Philippians 1:3