SOME years ago, I enrolled as a very mature student in a part-time course at one of our local colleges of further education. A fellow student was a pleasant, sociable, careless young man who had not done well in his secondary studies and seemed on track to fail the course in which we were both enrolled.

He had keen outside interests, but was frequently late to arrive in class, sometimes failed to follow instructions and often left assignments uncompleted. His “laid back” attitude tried the patience of our tutors.

Towards the end of the first term, as an experiment, I took advantage of my grey hair and said privately to our senior tutor that, So-and-So was a very interesting person because he was very much more intelligent than he thought he was. [This, by the way, is a reasonable description of most of the people one is ever likely to meet.]

Somehow, the observation spread to the other course tutors, who became more interested in the young man and began to find previously overlooked good points in his work. He rose to their new expectations, became somewhat more attentive and diligent, and at the end of the year finished the course with an excellent assessment.

Of course there is a moral in all this, something to do with the universality of God’s goodness, but also about how one’s own words and actions help to shape the world. One of the Quaker Advices asks, Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Another advises us to Be aware of the spirit of God at work in the ordinary activities and experiences of your daily life.

Laurel Phillipson

Clerk, Airton Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)