“Let us not become weary in doing good . . .” Galatians 6:9
I was having a delightful conversation with one of my former high school teachers at a recent school reunion when suddenly she caught me off guard. “Dan,” she said, “I have to tell you, you and your group of classmates were some of the best kids I ever taught. You were all just good kids.” She must have noticed my astonishment, for she paused for a moment, smiled, then rephrased her compliment. “Well, I should say if you did do things you shouldn’t have, I never knew it.” “We did,” I admitted sort of sheepishly.
She obviously had never heard the story about our eighth-grade math class. We had a teacher back then whose teaching style was to deliver a short lecture, then hand out a page of math problems for us to spend the remainder of class completing. After handing it out he would then excuse himself to the teachers’ lounge, returning just before the end of class. As you can imagine with a bunch of unsupervised middle-schoolers, by the time he did return the classroom had erupted into total chaos, for which the girls received extra homework to be turned in the next day, and the boys were summarily marched out into the hallway where each received a series of stinging licks on the behind with an oak paddle (this was back in the days of corporal punishment). Every student in the classroom was punished, that is except one – me. Why I don’t know, for I was as guilty as my classmates. To this day they still hold a grudge and have never let me forget it.
Notwithstanding stories like this one, though, my former beloved high school teacher was right. We really were good kids, certainly as measured in terms of making good grades, participating in the right kinds of activities, and demonstrating potential for a bright future. In preparing ourselves for success, in other words, we were doing good.
Doing good, however, means a great deal more than self-accomplishment. If that’s all it means, then I suppose getting away with mischief in eighth-grade math class fits the criteria for doing good. Rather, doing good occurs when our accomplishments become focused on the good of others and serving God. Then and only then do we experience abundant life. (It took me years to figure that out.) So, as St. Paul reminds us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”