Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 Christmas Letter

My friend Madison was kind enough to highlight some points from my Christmas letter on her blog, so I've decided to post it here for those of you who know me only via the blogosphere.

As I sit down to write this letter and reflect on 2008, most of the year seems like a repeat of 2007. Same church, same friends, same job, same house, same dog. Had the year come to a close in June, I could have sent a duplicate of last year’s letter. But then July came, and my story changed.

While I was working at my same job, I was offered and accepted a part-time position to teach a class called Legal Analysis Research & Writing III. My duties included teaching a two-hour class for thirteen weeks on how to draft an appellate brief and prepare and deliver an appellate argument. It looked a lot easier on paper than it turned out to be.

As I struggled with the textbook, the length of the teaching time, and the disinterest of the students, I found myself making assumptions as to why the students would not participate in class and why they lacked focus. When one student chatted online and laughed throughout my class, I assumed that she was bored and preferred chatting online over taking notes. When another student repeatedly failed to come to class and turn in assignments on time, I assumed that he was blowing off my class in lieu of some of his four-hour classes. And when one student sent me questions via email two and three times a week but did not ask questions in class, I assumed that he was not prepared for class. Somehow my assumptions convinced me to believe that they were these students’ real stories, but they were far from it.

The online chatter later came up to me and explained that the one-year anniversary of the death of a sibling was approaching and that she and her family were struggling to deal with the weight of the loss. The absent student explained that he was trying to keep a third-generation business going in a tough economy, as well as lead a family, and that, much to his chagrin, his classes were at the bottom of his priority list. The emailing student later revealed that he had a speech impediment and that it was much easier to email than to stutter through a question in front of his peers.

Hearing my students’ real stories reminded me that everyone has a story. And just as no two snowflakes are alike, neither are the stories of those around us.

Just as Mary put her focus on relationships, by spending time with Elizabeth prior to giving birth to the Savior, my prayer is that we will also invest in those around us by taking the time to listen to their stories instead of assuming that we know a story just because a person acts a certain way.

So when you see a snowflake, I hope it will spur you to find out someone’s story. And I hope that you will share your story with me because I’d love to know how your story has changed this year.

Merry Christmas!


kasogayle said...

I always enjoy getting your Christmas letters so much...keep writing them!

TJ Wilson said...

just beautiful! i love how you find significant in the ordinary, friend.