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A Peculiar People

by Kelsey Pierre

Can you say that again, please?” I asked my teacher as she wrote the answer to a geometry proof on the whiteboard.

“I don’t have time. You’ll have to copy it later,” my teacher replied sharply. I was confused. How much effort does it take to repeat a single sentence? It wasn’t my fault that my last name forced me to sit in the back of the classroom because of the alphabetized seating chart. And why would she ask me to copy the answer later? It just didn’t make any sense! 

Besides, in her fast-paced geometry class, copying answers was now or never. By the time she finished writing, I would have a few seconds before she cleared the whiteboard. All I wanted was for her to repeat the formula. Suddenly it dawned on me that my Caribbean accent had interfered with her comprehension of my question. I smiled as I repeated my question.

“Can you say that again, please?” I spoke as clearly as I could, placing a distinct emphasis on the word “say” to ensure the she would not once again mistake it for the word “save.” Once again, my teacher did not understand my request. I could tell that she was beginning to get frustrated that I was using up her “precious geometry time.” After having to repeat myself two more times, a friend of mine came to my aid.

“She wants you to say the answer again,” he said simply. I shot him a look of gratitude and settled back into my seat, expecting my teacher to simply repeat the answer. 

“Say?” my teacher questioned. “I thought you said save,” she said as she chuckled to herself. Then she repeated the answer. But she didn’t just repeat it. She repeated the answer in what she believed was an amusing rendition of my accent. The friend who had helped her understand my request shook his head sadly while the rest of my class erupted into laughter. When the laughter had subsided, my math teacher looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’re strange.”

“Don’t worry about her,” my friend whispered from his seat. I mustered a small smile, but I sat in complete shock until the bell rang. 

I had never expected emigrating from the Caribbean to New York would be easy. I knew that to my new classmates and teachers I had an accent. Likewise, they had an accent to me. During my first year in high school, barely 10 people could say that I’d spoken a single sentence to them. The only way my science teacher could get an answer from me was by reading my lips from across the classroom! I learned to speak more slowly and to pronounce each word clearly. 

At the beginning of my tenth grade year, I had finally gathered enough courage to speak. I still had to make adjustments, and sometimes I had to repeat myself once or twice, but I took it all in stride and nobody seemed to mind. In fact, many of my schoolmates would stop me just to tell me that they thought my accent was exotic. I had a voice again! I was extremely grateful that God had taken me so far. I even made a few friends.

When my math teacher made fun of me in front of my classmates and then called me strange, it hurt more than I’d like to admit. I didn’t speak for the rest of the day. At home when I started my math homework, I could barely focus. I wondered, How dare she call me strange! Did she not realize that to me, she had an accent, too? 

Then it hit me. My teacher had actually paid me a compliment! Deuteronomy 26:18 came to mind: “And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands” (NIV).* 

My teacher calling me strange reminded me of what God wanted from me. God wants me to be different; not just like the rest of the world. 1 Peter 2:9 states, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV). We are to be different so that through us the world can see God and His love. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad about being called “strange.” 

I thought back to other times when I’d probably been thought of as being strange. My soccer coach must have thought I was strange to miss important practices and games that happened on Saturdays. My track coach probably thought me strange to miss league meets and exciting invitationals that 

took place on Saturdays. My history teacher probably thought me strange, not to mention stupid, to turn down the opportunity to rescue my school at a history competition when he realized that I simply couldn’t miss a day of church. The list could go on, but now I’m proud of it. In fact, I look forward to more opportunities to appear “strange.” Deuteronomy 14:2 states, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession” (NIV). God chose us to be different. God chose us to be above all the nations on earth! 

God chose me, and I am honored to be a part of His peculiar people. 

* Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Kelsey Pierre (a pseudonym) enjoys playing soccer, running track, reading, and writing stories.

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