Several years ago, Reader’s Digest told a story out of California. A small town near San Francisco was home to many hippies, and they tended to give their children interesting names. Folks in the town grew accustomed to meeting children on the playground with names like Time Warp, Spring Fever, Moonbeam, and Precious Promise. Every fall, the kindergarten teachers at the public school had a new batch of creative names to learn. So they gave parents large name tags which they were instructed to fill out and apply to their children before putting them on the bus for the first day of school. Of all the odd names in the bunch one particular year, Fruit Stand stood out as the strangest, but his teachers tried to make the best of it.
“’Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?’ they offered. And later, ‘Fruit Stand, how about a snack?’ He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn't seem much odder than Heather's or Sun Ray's. At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. ‘Fruit Stand, do you know which one is your bus?’ He didn't answer. That wasn't strange. He hadn't answered them all day. Lots of children are shy on the first day of school. It didn't matter. The teachers had instructed the parents to write the names of their children's bus stops on the reverse side of their name tags. The teacher simply turned over the tag. There, neatly printed, was the word ‘Anthony.’”
Assumptions can lead us into embarrassing situations like this one, and even get us into trouble. Many times, assumptions short circuit relationships before they have even begun. We do not even listen to what someone has to say, because he or she belongs to a group we think we already know all about. “Oh, you know how those liberals are.” Or those conservatives. Or those medical residents. Or those night shift people. Or those ER patients. Fill in the blank however you like. We all have our assumptions. But each person in one of those groups is an individual. He or she has a name, just like little Anthony, and it is that side of their name tag we need to read. When we don’t, we risk missing out on so much.
God, forgive us for the assumptions that we make. So often we make judgments about other people, about you, or about ourselves because we think we already know all we need to know. Please open our eyes to the fresh possibilities inherent in every individual we meet, and help us not to let our assumptions get in the way of the relationships for which you have created us. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent