Do you label people? Think about it.

When I was a kid, I went to elementary school (we called it grade school back then) for eight years in a one-room school where one teacher taught all eight grades. It was a wonderful way to learn. The younger ones were never bored because they watched the older students at the blackboard and learned from them. If a pupil was a little behind or needed review or reinforcement, they watched the younger kids at the blackboard doing their problems or diagramming sentences. We all learned from each other and no one was ever labeled as slow or excelling.

After eight years in that wonderful country school with a miracle worker for a teacher, we rode the bus into town for high school. It was there I got my first taste of labeling students by affluence or location or ability to learn.

There was a distinct difference in country kids and city kids. Country kids, like me, rode the bus to and from school each morning and evening. Consequently, we were unable to be in band because they met before regular school hours. We could not participate in school sports for the same reason. Some of the bigger boys were able to play football because the coaches delivered them home after practice. But for the most part, there was a clear-cut difference in city kids and country kids.

I never felt I suffered any ill effects from those differences. Most country kids I knew excelled in their studies because we had such a solid background in math and reading and science and spelling and grammar. We were so fortunate to have teachers who were not just teaching for the money, but to help kids learn. Their efforts sure paid off.

My late husband's mother died when he was a baby, so he spent all his formative years moving from oil town to oil town with his dad who worked as a driller. Jim said he felt the rejection of others in the schools because he was labeled “one of those oil field kids." There was a definite line of demarcation between the home town kids and the transient kids. Luckily Jim had teachers who recognized his plight and were sympathetic to his constant moving and not fitting in with where the other students were in their studies. It must have been awful trying to make friends and trying to fit in. Jim knew that as soon as he had a friend, he would have to move off and leave, so it seemed pointless to make friends. In one year, he attended 11 different elementary schools. Aren't we grateful that we can overcome those labels placed on us as kids, and learn from that stigma? It takes a strong person to rise above those feelings of inferiority and labeling.

From the way we were labeled, we learned to not label people because of any differences. We all had a lot to contribute to education and social life of school. If my mother had ever heard me criticize or make fun of another kid because of any difference, she would have given me a stern “think about it” lecture.

But look around us now. Do we label people because of their color or race or way of dressing? If they wear clothes different than those we wear, do we somehow feel they are different and don't have the same feelings we do?

It is so very easy to look at kids nowadays with their pants barely hanging on their hips and with shirt tails flapping in the breeze and with several earrings in their ears (and no telling where else) and with tattoos making a statement, and their purple hair, and we instantly form an opinion of what they are, when we really don't know. They may be well-behaved, courteous, smart kids, but we label them because they look different than we do. Probably most of those young people are not thugs or gang members, but just kids trying their wings in this big world.

Those same kids probably think by the clothes we wear that we are old fuddy-duddies, and you know, they may be right. By the way we dress and the way we act, we are labeling ourselves to the world too. Our inside feelings are not always reflected in the way we act and dress.

I was taught long ago by my mother that when we define people, we confine them. We don't allow ourselves to get to know them. We have a preconceived idea of who they are and don't give them a chance to let us know their true self, so they don't get to know us, either.

This past week I have helped (termed loosely as I was not much help in crafts) at Vacation Bible School at Hillsdale Bible Church. Oh, what a wonderful experience. I helped with all ages from third through sixth grades. We had over 80 busy, darling kids to teach and learn from. One thing I noticed was the courteous way all the kids got along. My great-granddaughter attended and she resides in Texas, so she did not know anyone. On the first day, she had fast friends that she just loved to be with. What a lesson those kids could teach some of us adults about acceptance.

I have had requests to share a recipe for clam chowder. Some time ago I had this recipe in my column, and many liked it.

When we went to Nova Scotia and stopped over in Boston, we enjoyed eating their wonderful lobster and clam chowder. They have a definite label on Boston Clam Chowder. One of our guides told the story of some legislator trying to get a bill passed in their state that clam chowder could not be made with tomatoes. The local newspaper stated that there was no need for such a law about how clam chowder was to be prepared as no self-respecting Bostonian would even think of making it with tomatoes, so no need for such an outrageous law. We loved their clam chowder recipe shared by a Bostonian, who should know how it is done. Serve it with crusty bread and hot tea.

New England Clam Chowder

1 or 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 or 2 cans minced clams with juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups milk

Boil potatoes and onion in juice drained from cans of clams and enough water to barely cover. When potatoes are tender, add clams and seasoning and milk. Add more milk if you want it thinner. Bring to a boil and serve. One Bostonian suggested adding crumbled bacon, but one said, “Heavens, no”, so use your own judgment.

Click for the latest, full-access Enid News & Eagle headlines | Text Alerts | app downloads

Goodrich writes a weekly column for the Enid News & Eagle​. Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.

React to this story:


Recommended for you