7.19.2010

Squeak the Truth in Love


Fifth grade choir was kind of a big deal.

There was an “audition” of sorts. If you could sing the notes that the teacher played on the piano and were reasonably well-behaved, you were in. Choir members were permitted to get up out of their seats on Mondays when the clock hit 2:15 to go to the music room. I remember that part because I got out of my seat at 2:14 one time, and my science teacher scolded me.

That particular year, I learned a little lesson about assertiveness – one of those traits that rarely show up on my personality test results.

My music teacher was a tall, slim woman who had perfect posture. I admired her very much. She assigned me a place in the fifth grade choir next to a girl who I will never forget, not because of her looks or behavior, but because, sadly, she had the worst breath I have ever smelled in my entire life. I don’t know whatever became of her, but to this day, I can remember exactly what it smelled like, on the same level as decomposing fish. The music room was a small room, so everyone’s personal space overlapped. It was all a deadly combination of factors.

Every Monday, I wanted to look forward to 2:15. But I dreaded it. I knew that a green cloud of breath awaited me in that place. I would be forced to sit in the midst of that cloud, inhaling toxic fumes as the second hand inched toward 3:00, longing for the choir to reach its last Christmas song to rehearse. There would be no escape. Nowhere to run. No one to trade places with me. Seats were ASSIGNED. Of course, I couldn’t just turn to her and say, “Wow, your breath is HORRIBLE!” I didn’t want to embarrass her, and I didn’t want to tell anyone else about the problem. But every Monday after school, I came home feeling sick to my stomach, which had been churning for 45 minutes.

I began to weigh my options. Sneaking her a tic-tac was out of the question. Candy was prohibited. So there were only two possibilities that I could figure. I could either suffer in silence for the rest of the year, or I could take matters into my own hands and go to the teacher about it. Neither option was particularly appealing. If I chose to continue to sit in the toxic green cloud, my fifth grade choral experience would be nothing but grim. But if I went to the teacher, what would she say? What would she think of me? And would she even care?

After giving the issue as much thought as a 10-year-old possibly could, I settled on the latter option, willing to face whatever fallout might come for the chance of an escape. One Monday after choir practice was over and all the kids had filed out, I approached my music teacher and asked her if I could talk to her about something. She looked puzzled. I said, “I wanted to ask you if you could move me to a different spot.”

I prayed she wouldn’t ask why.

"Why?” she said.

“Because the girl who sits next to me has very bad breath,” I said quickly.

I remember the look on my teacher’s face and her body language. She did that thing people do when they hear something unexpected – head draws back sharply, lips turn down, eyebrows frown – all of which said to me, “You are a strange little child,” whether she meant to communicate that or not. I could tell she was taken aback, and I was drowning in embarrassment for having even brought it up.

"Well,” she said slowly, “I’ll see what I can do.”

I hurried away.

The following Monday, my teacher discretely showed me to a new place in the choir, a merciful action that I have always looked back on with gratitude. I felt sorry for the new victims of the green cloud. But then again, it was no longer my problem.

As difficult as it was to go to my teacher, I learned that day the truth in that old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” There are times when squeaking is absolutely necessary, though it may not come naturally. As I have gotten older, I’ve tried to learn how to squeak better when situations demand it. Not louder, really, just more tactfully and purposefully. At least, that is my intention.

Sometimes a persistent, intermittent squeak is required. Other times, a single, definitive noise is sufficient. Shrill and strident squeaks can be counterproductive. Ephesians 4:15 says to “Speak the truth in love.” But I am going so far as to say that we can also SQUEAK the truth in love. What I mean is, if you’ve got to speak up, there’s really just one way to do it – in love.

In this case, my “love” came from a feeling of protectiveness toward my classmate. I didn’t know Ephesians 4:15 back then, but I did know that I needed to squeak in a way that would do the least damage to her feelings in a “love always protects” (1 Corinthians 13) kind of way. Amazingly enough, it all worked out in the end.

The next time you feel a squeak coming on, even if it’s the truth, remember the love part, too. It just might be the critical factor in determining whether or not your squeaky wheel is going to get its shot of WD-40.

Until next time,

17 comments:

  1. This is wonderful! Good timing for me, too, as this is something I've been working on. Thanks!

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  2. {sniff, sniff} {secretly checking breath} ;)

    Great lesson, Jennifer! And fun to read! ♥ Michelle

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  3. I really enjoyed this post!

    Hope you have a nice week,
    Candace

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  4. Hi, I am a new follower from Tag Along Tuesday. I look forward to reading your posts.

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    Thanks, Shining2Save

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  5. Following you from TTA would love to have you return the favor, if you haven't already, and visit us @
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  6. Hi - I came over from Seeds of Faith. I loved reading this! Brought back memories of elementary music class and all the disgusting recorders floating in a bin of (clean?) water. I so appreciated the point you made.

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  7. I really enjoyed reading this!! How true- it can be so difficult to speak the truth in love- but often we have to.
    Jessica

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  8. Hi! I just came over from iFellowship. This is so true! I was never one to make any waves when I was growing up, ever. I didn't speak up for myself. I didn't speak up for anyone else. I tried to remain anonymous. This made me an easy target for bullies. It took me many years of growing up in order to overcome it. My life would have been a lot easier had I had the courage to speak up sometimes. We live and learn, don't we?

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  9. Hi! I'm visiting from iFellowship. You have a great looking blog! I'm now following! I look forward to coming back on a less busy day!

    I would love for you to come visit me @ Living Above

    Have a great Wednesday!
    your sis in the faith

    http://www.pennyfranklin-livingaboveministries.blogspot.com

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  10. That is an excellent post!! Thanks for the insight.

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  11. Great blog!! I came over from NFF. This post is so true. I can relate, mostly to the 'do I say something and hurt her feelings' portion. Hope you have a great weekend!

    http://mekhart.blogspot.com

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  12. Good morning! Follow you from Hop Along Friday!

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  13. Hi! I'm following from Surfin Saturdays! Stop by some time!
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  14. Such a good blog, glad I found you. Yes checking my breath :)
    kim

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  15. Love your blog.

    Your style.

    This post.

    And especially the post about housekeeping chores...both Erma Brombeck and the P31 woman get on my nerves sometimes!

    Following you, right after I brush, floss, and rinse.

    Sweet dreams.

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  16. Very funny post, but so very true. I believe I recall the choir teacher, too! Wasn't the choir room above the gym?

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