Special Consideration

I deserve special consideration.  At least, I think I do.

Honestly, it’s in my script.  I was born in America when only a fraction of my friends went to war.  A baby boomer; I attended school in a rich district, where being white got me benefits blacks schools did not get.  My church brought in Oxford scholars. I had an IQ to enjoy accelerated classes, was a doctor’s kid.  Nothing I earned.  All came unasked, undeserved.

I sensed I was called by God to serve Him, so I got to do that for years, with pay, and believed down deep, I got special considerations.  Get out of Jail Free cards.

The problem with special consideration, though, is that it has nothing to do with me.

Years ago, Jill and I boarded a Delta flight and were happily surprised to find the Captain was Darl Henderson.  We had been to his house often, eaten, and skied behind his boat while serving as a youth minister in Coral Gables.  I would never have known he flew C130s in Vietnam so close to the action that he got combat pay, if I had not wandered down a hallway to a bathroom (two were in use!) and seen photos on a wall.  He was quiet like that.

Darl was kind.  We found our seats and buckled in.  As we ignored the safety talk, a stewardess asked Jill and me to move to First Class and take new seats — at the Captain’s request.

We ate with real silver ware, a meal we only dreamed about in “last” class, and were too excited to sleep in the huge chairs while Darl flew.  Special Consideration.

I think I deserve special consideration, irrespective of any fact that I ever deserved any of it that has come before.

Between our two boys, Jill miscarried in the same month that her horse died.  We were devastated.  We fell from special consideration, but no more than the one in five pregnancies that abort universally.  Even there, at a prayer service where Mildred told us she had born two children full term to lose both, Charles Burnside quietly gave us a check — covering all our out-of-pocket costs to the odd dollar amount we would be billed for!  How could he know?

At the core of my faith, I believe, I hope, that beyond a special consideration of salvation, God in Christ plans for me, that He builds on, extends that special consideration.  And He does; just like 50,000+ names on a black scar of granite in a hill on The Mall; just like the 168 who died in the Murrah Building blast; or teens murdered in classrooms in schools across the country or on our highways.

You see, we denigrate the term, squandering it on temporary dwellings: bodily and material.  We denigrate it as we fear it: God’s special consideration means Heaven, with Him.  I want that, but fear it might be today, so, like Freud said, I binge on trivia and seek winnings, upgrades, great prices on steals, and so on.

I fear the ultimate upgrade, the last special consideration.  Not Darl.  Somewhere flying over battles covered in the Evening News collecting bullet holes in the fuselage except around his seat, he quietly found true special consideration.  Like God in Christ, Special Consideration is meant to push us to be creative in making it happen for others.

 

 

Spare Write

I assign and grade a lot of writing for college students: diaries, papers, biographical analyses, idea pitches, investor papers and more.  So, I now understand a joke from seminary.

So, do you have professor ____?

Yes.  Is he interesting?

I think so, but he assigns lots of papers!

How does he grade?

By the pound.

I had the good professor, and he did assign papers and I know he did not read them (mine).  I put wild things about him in the papers, and they came back with a letter grade on the front page: all else undisturbed.  “A”s mostly.

He assigned a notebook.  I bought a ream of notebook paper with hole punches.  I divided the ream into two halves.  I inserted one half in the middle of the front half of my notes, and the other half towards the end of assigned papers.  I did not intersperse new pages among my notes, readings, and other printed materials.  They remained nice, white blocks of virgin paper in two slots.

I made an “A”.  It made me sad.

But my students write like that.  Many write to fill ten pages rather than to say something.  I enjoy the 15%  who do write, who do struggle to say something.  With some of them I edit everything as mercilessly as Pam Schlueder did for me as an aspiring writer in Journalism 2021 at UT.

My first goal with her was a Pulitzer Prize.  My second goal became to receive a paper with more black ink than red ink.  She taught me to write.

My fat baby ways, my porcine fillers were slashed.  They offended her.  “There are” and “There is” vanished on sight.  Passive verbs, axed.  “That” obliterated.  Intransitive verbs seemingly followed a red pen stroke to the edge of the paper before tumbling to the Abyss.  Multiple prepositional phrases, gerundizing, participial verbing — all vanquished.

So today, when a student shows promise I strive to show writing as a craft, a skill.  And like playing the piano; you practice hundreds of hours mechanically before genius flows over proficiencies mastered and draws in the listener.

They are shocked when I hand back 60% of their paper and it says what they attempted, only better.  More than that, they are shocked when I hand back the paper.

And some are learning to write and communicate.  Some even buy into the fact that writing better forces them to think better.  Maybe I should join them!