This week I said goodbye to my sophomore writing students. We ended the semester with “This I Believe” essays. I thought I would write one of my own and share it here.
I Believe in Second Chances.
I believe in second chances because I find I usually need a do over. For example, the first time I met my good friend Kelly Large, I picked a fight with her. Our mutual friends Genie and Kristie invited Kelly to church, and I was so jealous I pulled her hair and made her cry. (I think I was ten at the time.) Despite my terrible behavior, Kelly gave me a second chance. This led a friendship that lasted for years, and included spend the night parties, endless games of monopoly, and climbing on rooftops in the middle of the night.
Another reason I believe in second chances is because of my job as a teacher. Teachers get to see people on their worst behavior sometimes, but many of them improve if they are offered another chance. One of my favorite examples is the student who used to yell and leave the room whenever I gave a new Comp II writing assignment. He would go to the Writing Center, calm down, and sit with a tutor for a while. Then he would come back the next class and tell me I was right and he was sorry. Sometimes we need more than one second chance.
Sometimes we need to protect ourselves from people who take advantage of our good nature. But more often than not offering a second chance doesn’t cost us anything. The student who wants to re-do a paper is not really causing harm to me. The cashier who frowned and hassled me last time was probably just having a bad day, and trying the store again will probably not hurt me.
I recently read a quote from the gospel of Matthew. Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. The first one was asked to go work in the vineyard. He said “no, I will not.” But later he did it anyway. The second son said “sure, I will go work in the vineyard.” But in the end he did not work. Jesus asked the priests which son was righteous. They said the first one, of course. Jesus reminded them that the tax collectors and the prostitutes were like the first son. They started out rejecting the right thing, and then they changed their minds. Jesus point here is that getting things right the second time around is much better than pretending to have it all figured out and getting it wrong in the end.
I believe in second chances. The second chance reminds us that failure the first time (times) is not the end of things. The second chance shows us that trying again is worthwhile. I believe in second chances. And I’m so grateful when someone extends one to me.