Every Thursday in our summer camp season, I spend hours going through lists of hundreds of campers, trying to ensure that every incoming camper will be bunking with their requested cabin mates. It’s a series of looking through each and every camper and each and every request (up to five per camper) and trying to match up requests made by parents who mispelled names, who used nicknames, or who simply forgot to make requests. I then have to find the camper and cabin on the master list and make sure that each of their requests are in their cabin.
If I think my hours of checking these is monotonous, the guy who has to manually make these lists is in a far worse position. Preparing the master list essentially takes him all of Wednesday. My supervisor also looks through the list to check for mistakes as well, adding up to a total of many hours put in by dedicated staff who are sincerely trying to honor cabin mate requests.
However, if the requests aren’t mutual, we can’t put campers together and this is normally where we run into problems. Every single check-in day, we get irate parents bombarding us with a generously large piece of their mind about how their child didn’t get the cabin mates they wanted and how this is not okay.
But, despite having this conversation with parents more times than I could count on my hands, I have yet to see time where it is actually–and entirely–our mistake. Instead it’s theirs for not mutually requesting. And I just wish so badly that the parents could understand how much pain I suffer every Thursday trying to ensure their happiness. I feel like if they could understand that struggle, they wouldn’t be as angry. If they could just see for a moment!
But it goes the other way too. I have parents call in all the time who are concerned or upset with the dumbest requests and worries. The things parents ask for sometimes are just insane and, if I’m honest, I gotta say sometimes I judge them just a little bit. But I’ve never been a parent. And, even if I had been, I would never have parented their specific child from their specific backstory. If I could just understand the context, I wouldn’t be so quick to laugh at them. If I could just see for a moment!
Andy Stanley once pointed out in a message that all the time we laugh at, judge, or get angry with people who are doing things that don’t make any sense. We think they’re annoying and just plain stupid. But then he said that everything a person is doing makes sense to the person doing it. They have a reason for what they do. So if we don’t understand, then who is the stupid one?
Sometimes when we judge others, we feel better about ourselves. “Why in the world would anyone ever wear that???” That’s a good question. Why would they? My judgement doesn’t show I know better, but that I simply don’t know.
I’m not saying that everything is relative and that there is no right and wrong. It might be that a parent’s concern really is illegitimate considering the circumstances, or that what they’re requesting really isn’t doable. But I shouldn’t deem them stupid or rude because of that.
Instead of being quick to condemn, let’s be quick to ask “why?” and to genuinely seek out the answer. Not only because it’s not our place to judge but also because, once we understand where the other person is coming from, we’ll have more respect, be more willing to help, and have a greater perspective of each individual created in the very image of our God.
I appreciate hearing from readers. Comment with a story about a time when you were quick to judge, but then learned and understood the reasoning afterward.