December 1, 2014
Online Journal - Do Unto Others
Angie Bishop, Principal, Parkview Adventist Academy, Lacombe, AB

He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Ben Franklin
 
The new teacher was coming in mid-year. The exiting teacher was kind enough to give a quick tour, and a few pieces of advice before leaving the small community. In the tour were the words, “Here is where I keep the strap. You will need if for Billy*.” The first year teacher took note of all the details and settled in over the Christmas holiday to prepare for the “first” day of school.

On that first day of class, the new teacher found Billy there early. After all someone would be getting an education: either the teacher or Billy. The teacher had thoroughly done the homework, and Billy was coming in to evaluate the “assignment.” When Billy, the fifth grader, introduced himself, the new teacher asked for some help. Appearing almost absentminded, “Billy, could you take this strap and throw it in the dumpster outside? I don’t think I will need it, do you?” Billy gladly obliged. As a matter of fact, he cheerfully and willingly finished out the year, doing all he could to help the new teacher “make it through the year.” The teacher stayed for 4 ½ years in the little community. To this day, 30 years later Billy fondly remembers his favourite teacher.

None of this information is new to any of us. As Benjamin Franklin said, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” This theory is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance proves to be a powerful motivator which will often lead an individual to change either one or other of the conflicting beliefs or actions. To release the tension, we can take one of three actions: change our behavior, justify our actions by changing the contradicting belief, or justify our action by adding new beliefs.

I am reminded of Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is more deceitful than all else. And is desperately sick; who can understand it?” So where do we go with these facts that science is giving us, the words of Scripture and our own experiences? Thankfully, we can go to Christ’s example and the Bible. The story of the woman at the well reminds me that sometimes we need to ask for a favour from someone who may see us as the enemy. When a hater is asked for help, they may begin to move their beliefs more into line with their actions. I’m not proposing that manipulation is the way for Adventist teachers and administrators to operate. What I am proposing is that we understand that sometimes individuals are acting upon a preconceived belief that may be based on biases or misinformation. Perhaps we need to ask for a Parent Advisory Group to help us on an important project. Maybe we need to ask that staff member that never seems happy with a decision to be the one in charge when business calls us elsewhere. What about that student that could help you out with technology, tutoring, refereeing, or decorating a bulletin board?

Matt. 25: 35-40, the story of the sheep and goats, also gives us a hint about actions and beliefs changing us. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’(verse 40).” We don’t run around looking for the least to love. True Christians look around and help those that need help, and in turn (and in time) meet the people that we care about. Perhaps we love because Christ first loved us, and we see our brothers and sisters in need, and then we do something to help. Whether it is our actions that come first or our thoughts, it is hard to pinpoint. One thing is true: our thoughts influence our actions and our actions influence our thoughts.

What can I tell you about Billy? He sends his kids to an Adventist school, and is actively involved with volunteering. I saw him in September giving of his time, talents and resources to a family that needed his help, and Billy wears the biggest of smiles.
 
*Billy is not his real name, but he is a real person. The story of Billy spans from January 1983 to September 2014.