We have dogs. OK, that is an understatement. We have many dogs. Nine, I think, maybe more.
Anyway, we have one dog we rescued from Hamilton that was abandoned in the country. Knowing dogs, we recognized it as nothing more than a mutt — “part pit bull and part something else,” as we would say.
We always treated the dog well, of course, but in the back of my mind he just wasn’t quite as valuable as the purebred Aussies we have, our English Bulldog, or even our Lab. When it came time for this mutt, named “Gator” by my daughter Leanne (who adopted the dog as hers and then promptly left him to us when she went to college, but I am not complaining), to have expensive tests for allergies and other unique medical issues, I thought, “How much money are we spending on this dog? He’s a mutt. He can have a few allergies. I have allergies too!”
But things changed for Gator Sunday night when County Commissioner Forrest Floyd and his wife Nancy came by for dinner. Forrest’s son had stopped in a few weeks ago and told his dad that we have a Black Mouth Cur just as he does. So, upon seeing Gator and knowing what his son’s dog looks like, the senior Forrest told me, “This isn’t a mutt. It’s a Black Mouth Cur.” “A what?” we asked. “A Black Mouth Cur.”
Well, we know dogs. And we couldn’t have missed this breed — or at least that’s what we thought.
Sure enough, not only is there a breed known as Black Mouth Cur, but Gator is their poster child – the spitting image of the breed standard. When I asked Leanne, who is ironically entering vet school at UGA in August, about this she was shocked. She looked up the dogs and immediately said, “Oh wow, that’s him! I have never heard of the breed!”
Yep, things seemed to change for Gator about then.
Now, Gator didn’t know a thing about all this. If he did, he didn’t let on. But I suppose he does see in my eyes a kind of acceptance, a kind of pride in him that I perhaps did not have before. So, he must be thinking, something’s up. In any case, I promise he seems to be walking taller the past few days.
Maybe I am spending more time with him, appreciating his markings and his demeanor. And truth be told, even his bark is less annoying. His partners in crime do not look quite so superior to him anymore either.
And so I confess my sin, Gator. I confess that I wrongly pigeon-holed you into a category of “second-class.” I confess that I did not see you as valuable as your buddies. I confess that I was wrong. And I owe you.
But, all that leaves me wondering how often I do that to people. As I thought about that, it brought to mind the many times a student may come in my office at Armstrong, and perhaps by their very demeanor I may pre-judge them. If a student is dressed horribly or looks like a ne’er-do-well, I may assume things about them that are not true. And that assumption then leads me to treat them differently than I should.
And that is wrong.
I am reminded of the times I have assumed a student, by their looks or affect, would have a GPA barely above “conscious” only to find they are majoring in pre-med with a 4.0. I can make judgments about people for the wrong things. I can treat people differently because of that, and as one who follows Christ, that embarrasses me.
So, I confess. I am just plain wrong to judge people on anything other than their character or actions. I have found too often that looks, what people tell me about others, or even how that person is identified (“mutt” or “purebred”) are simply not reliable indicators of a person’s true character. Maybe you have found that to be true as well.
God help me to do better.
Here Gator, I have some biscuits for you.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi is a member of the Society of Ordained Scientsts.