I go to a small school on Wednesdays. The other kids go to school every day except Friday. Mom has a special deal with the teacher, where we can go once a week. The teacher gives my siblings and me homework for the week. My mom has six of us, so it makes her job easier when someone else assigns us our work. Another great thing about the school is that we get to see other kids when we go. About a year and a half ago, something happened at school, that made me depressed for a while. Katherine, my best friend at school, began to have a lot of sick days. At first it wasn’t concerning, but she started to be sick almost every day. It began to be obvious that she was skipping school. When our school did a play for Thanksgiving, she showed up so rarely to practice, that our teacher made her a minor character, even though she should have had a starring part in the play. Katherine stopped caring about school, dropped out, and ran away from home. I was so sad because, I knew everything at school would be different without her.
Katherine brought so much creativity with her and used to spark my mind with ideas. I gave her ideas too. I remember one time, when our teacher Mrs. Strasburg spread pictures that looked like they had been torn out of a calendar on the table and asked us to write stories based on them. At the time Katherine was in 11th grade and I was in 9th. Katherine and I began talking, ideas spilling from our mouths, and discombobulating our brains to create an outlandish, frenzied, and deranged story. We worked feverishly through recess to get it done. When we finished, we held the manuscript to a fantastic tale about the Loch Ness monster, a yeti, a plane crash, a short, evil little man, and some poisoned corn in our hands. Excitedly, we showed our masterpiece to the class who, seemed to enjoy it immensely.
Writing was not the only thing we did well together. We used to inspire each other to draw. Mrs. Strasburg, an invigorating soul who pushes her students to pursue their interests, encouraged us. She gifted me and Katherine with Sketchbooks and colored pencils for Christmas. We began a picture book about odd people. Our first character was a shifty banker who smoked Mango Cigars, and usually had greasy, half eaten food littering his desk. He introduced his fat and fancy cousin as the next character, who in turn introduced the next character. It was a continuous string of introductions and odd characters. Our story might have continued for a while, but she never came back to school after the Christmas break.
Why didn’t she come back? I don’t fully understand, but she not only left the school, but she also left her home and moved in with some disreputable people. Once she mentioned them in a conversation. I remember, I was telling her about a favorite pastime of mine and my siblings.
“Katherine,” I giggled, “my siblings and I like to stand on the sidewalk in front of our house and make faces at cars that drive by! It is so much fun, except my mom won’t let us anymore because she thinks the neighbors will think we are strange or something.”
That was when Katherine frowned at me and cried “Oh y’all are those strange kids that make faces at people. You guys made faces at me one time.”
“Really,” I exclaimed, “we made faces at you? What were you doing in our neighborhood anyways?”
She then explained that she went over to her friend’s house, which was two houses down from us. Neglecting to mention the beer bottles strewn all over the front yard, she described the house as tan and yellow. The description matched our neighbors house exactly. The people she was talking about, blasted music that shook the neighborhood and the “bad kids” hung out there.
I remember being shocked and trying to soften the truth for myself. After all Katherine was nice, wasn’t she? I couldn’t change the facts though, and later I saw her walking ahead of me with some people in our neighborhood. She didn’t seem to see me, but I wasn’t sure. The way she didn’t notice me, and the people she was walking with sent a clear message, “I can’t talk right now. You probably wouldn’t like these people anyway, and they wouldn’t like you.”
I didn’t understand how she had two different sides. How did she have so many good qualities if she was submerging herself in a lifestyle that seemed to smother goodness? What was going on, I wondered? That is when I began to have my eyes opened to the goodness and wickedness that dwells in the heart of man.
A few months ago, I listened to a book called Crime and Punishment. It shows the complexity of human nature and how people who do bad things can still be good at heart. To start with, the main character whose name is Rodion, is confusing to the reader and himself. He doesn’t always understand why he does the things he does, and it is debatable whether he has a split personality or not. Though he commits a murder, Rodion still shows exceeding kindness to a destitute family. That family is starving and barely surviving. The only thing keeping them from death is the meager income brought in by Sonya, the older sister. She is a prostitute. People look down on her, but they don’t understand that she hates her job and would probably starve to avoid it if it weren’t for her family. She reads her Bible and seeks Jesus avidly. Knowing that she will not judge him, Rodion finally confesses all to her. She steers him to do what he knows is right. Even in her sin, Sonya has better qualities than most people.
I noticed a key difference between Kathrine and Sonya while writing this. Sonya was trying her hardest to do what was right, while Katherine willingly chose to drop out of school and move in with disreputable people. I learned that people ultimately have the choice to decide about whether they will try to be good or not. Katherine has good sides and I learned that just because a person does not behave right does not mean that they are devoid of every noble feeling. In the same way people can follow the rules and act right but have depleted, shallow, and pretentious souls. I prefer real people with sincere mistakes and kindness. Kathrine is human and so am I. The only difference between us is that I am seeking God’s will, and she is seeking her own will.
Everyone is messed up and has a sin-ravaged heart. In fact, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” but in verse 10 it goes on to say “I, the Lord, search the heart, test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” The best I can do is try, and I will still fail every day, but God looks at what I am trying to do, not at how perfect I can be. I am more sinful than I can comprehend because as a human being I am imperfect. God is perfect, and in my imperfection, he is glorified. All I must do is admit my sin and surrender my heart and soul to him. He generously forgives me, is chiseling me into his perfect image, and giving me a new name (his name).
God created everyone in his image, but when man sinned, he lost perfection. Because everyone is created in God’s image, I can find something unique and wonderful about anyone. Katherine is good at doing art, shows sincere kindness, and is creative. Katherine showed me this lesson so clearly. It will be vital someday considering the field I want to go into. I want to be a teacher, and if I can learn to see the best in people and point that out, it is quite possible I can help change them for the better. Who knows, maybe something I said to Katharine planted a seed in her heart. After all, everyone has a good side.