Flat Roofs

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” (Deuteronomy 22:8 ESV)

Our daughter Ellice started first grade on Guam and continued in the second grade during our first furlough. We enrolled her in the J.L. Mudd Elementary School. I suppose Mr. Mudd was a famous person but the name always struck me as funny.

The process was simple and she joined other young girls and boys to learn about reading, writing, and arithmetic. (How do you get the Three Rs with one “R,” a “W” and an “A?”) The school was not far from our furlough home but she rode a bus each day.

One day we received a note from her teacher. The teacher requested a conference to discuss our darling daughter. Ellice was strong willed but loved school and having fun. Her grades were just fine and she appeared to get along well with the other children in the neighborhood. We were curious why we needed a conference. I unfortunately had a schedule to keep so Beth met with the teacher.

The teacher was careful to choose her words. To soften the obvious bad news she first commended Ellice on her good spirit and good grades. She was doing well with the other students. The problem was her perceptions of reality. The results of our daughter’s drawing class revealed Ellice might need psychological help.

The teacher continued to explain the situation. There was a drawing assignment. Ellice was to draw a simple house with trees representing her real home. Searching through her desk drawer the teacher withdrew Ellice’s work and placed it on the desk.

“It’s obvious,” stated the teacher using tones of concern and an air of authority, “Ellice doesn’t have a complete grasp on reality.”

Pointing out details of the drawing she continued, “Here we have a house with a flat roof and the trees are inside out. We both know,” she continued indicating it was a well established fact, “houses have pointed roofs and trees are pine or leafy trees. It seems Ellice has conceptual problems.”

Beth looked at the drawing, looked at the teacher and almost laughed out loud. Ellice drew a perfectly good representation of our home on Guam. We have flat roofs on Guam. We have palm trees in our yard which look like inside out trees. Beth explained this difference and that Ellice was well aware of how our house looked. The teacher was both surprised and amazed.

The teacher’s understanding of the world was limited by her limited experience and she had not considered Ellice’s background during the evaluation. This was not the first time such misunderstandings would occur in the life of our children. The remainder of her time at J.L. Mudd was great.

Just like our daughter we’re not always understood. Sometimes as Christians we assume people understand our point of view, our background. Misunderstandings quickly develop and people can get offended. It’s important to sometimes explain the parapet on our roof or the palm tree in our yard. It’s sometimes necessary to open our own eyes to see the palm tree in the yard of someone else.


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