A Thankless Situation
Some days, I know what Jesus felt when only one of the nine lepers came back to thank him. Actually, his return-to-say-thank-you rate is pretty high, considering. Ten percent came back to say “Thank you for the miracle!”
For 30 years, thousands of students have passed through my classroom doors. Two have come back to thank me. Sure, the circumstances differ greatly. The lepers Jesus healed had a life-or death disease. I work with underage hostages of the educational system.
Christians get all down on the nine lepers who forgot to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). Those ungrateful wretches! All happy about their healing; dancing, singing, shouting, and running straight to their long-lost families! Lost in our censure of the lepers’ lack of basic good manners, we overlook the fact that they each had influence.
Back in the day, no one recovered from leprosy. Once diagnosed, they spent their lives in lonely exile away from family, friends, business colleagues, and society as they knew it. They entered life on the fringe. Everywhere they went, they had to loudly announce the state of their health.
Unable to work or interact with others, they scavenged for food and shelter with other lepers who had no hope.
Maybe we have the point of the story of the ungrateful lepers all wrong.
From Leper to Influencer
I get it. Only one percent seemed grateful. The only grateful leper happened to be a Samaritan. Maybe Jesus’ reaction had more to do with his despair about the state of the Jewish nation and their overall forgetfulness about the goodness of God than a lesson in etiquette. But I digress.
Nine lepers seemed ungrateful, but their reentry into Jewish society didn’t go unnoticed. They had influence. Anyone who experiences healing, whether dramatic or mundane, has influence. They each had a story—one they most likely told over and over again as family and friends gathered around to see the miracle for themselves.
I get it. I understand the quirky smile I imagine Jesus had on his face when the Samaritan ran back to praise God. The foreigner set the good example of faith, but the nine mannerless men would change from the outside in.
As they lived with their miracle and sat inside their new skin, they would realize that it wasn’t the physical healing that mattered. Jesus made them feel pure again—from the inside out. Jesus made them feel like somebody who could do something with a redeemed life.
The Statistics of Influence
Some people think teaching seems like a thankless task. But teachers live for the lightbulb moments, the high-fives, and the quiet statement of success. We know our influence lingers on in a sense of confidence and understanding that love shrinks the world.
Above all, we want our kids to know that they matter. Their stories matter, their voices matter, and one day, the way they make other people feel will really matter.
Those two kids who thanked me years later them glossed over the subjects that I taught them. They thanked me for the way I made them feel. They confessed to being difficult, and they thanked me for loving them through their rough exterior. Even if only .001% of my students ever come back and thank me, I’m ok with that statistic.
That quirky smile on my face when my kids run off excited about something they’ve accomplished means I know I’ve done something right. They learned the lesson. They are loved.