Michelle Martin

Unexpected gifts

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

If you have kids, you probably remember the first time you took your child to the playground and another small human told them no, they didn’t want to play. Or the first time they came home from preschool and said that one of their classmates didn’t like them.

You probably told them something like, “Nobody likes everybody, and somebody doesn’t like each one of us. It’s OK if that one person doesn’t like you.”

Then there was the time you saw your own child turn a cold shoulder to someone trying to join a game, or heard them talking about a classmate who was “so annoying.”

What did you tell them then?

If you’re like me, it was something like, “You don’t have to like everybody, but you do have to be nice to everyone.”

Then followed a long discussion on what that means: Yes, you can defend yourself from someone trying to hurt you; no, you can’t exclude someone who has never done anything to you from a game open to all, etc.

Now, with our youngest in middle school, we’re well past those first lessons. These days, I’m thinking about what we have all learned from people we don’t like.

I’m talking here about people who just aren’t your cup of tea, for whatever reason. Maybe they talk all the time, and you need some quiet to think. Or you need them to take a breath, please, so you get a chance to say something.

Maybe they always need to win the game, and when they lose, they make it so it’s not fun for anyone. Or maybe they always win the game, and you don’t like losing.

Maybe they’re messy, leaving a trail of paper scraps and discarded mittens behind them, and you like to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Or maybe they like to have everything shipshape, and you feel the side eye every time you don’t put something away as soon as you’re finished using it.

All those things give us a chance to learn something about ourselves: what we need; what we want; where, maybe, we need to work on ourselves.

Sometimes, of course, we don’t like someone because they have hurt us, or hurt someone else. We all hurt people from time to time, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not.

Those cases also come with lessons, about how we might hurt people if we’re not careful, and also about how much our perception changes with how they respond when they realize what they have done.

All those insights are gifts. They lead to the conclusion that for all of our differences, all the things that might rub the wrong way, we are all human. Someone might not ever feel like your best friend or your other half, but they all have dignity and deserve respect.

We are all beloved children of God, for all our likes and dislikes, whether we laugh too much and too loud or we have terrible taste in clothes. Jesus died for all of us, and Jesus rose from the dead for all of us, even the ones we don’t like.

And maybe the temptation in preschool is to proclaim that we will be BFFs with the classmate who likes purple just like us, but we should think again. If we make friends with the classmate who likes green, or yellow, we won’t have to share the purple marker anywhere near as much.



  • family life