...but be sure to put on hand sanitizer afterwards and then pass it on to the next person!
When Dave and I first moved to Niceville, Florida, where I was a substitute teacher, then a guidance counselor, then a principal, I began attending St. Jude's Episcopal Church. The first Sunday service I attended, I felt as though I had come home. These were my people; they were singing my songs; the youth were joking around with each other, etc. I sat in the middle of the church, and I sang hymns I hadn't heard for a while (the "why" of this is a whole other blog for another day, I promise). When we passed the sign of peace (shook hands, met some people, which Dave to this day still calls "halftime at the Episcopal church), the lady sitting in front of me turned around and said, "We must get you into the choir! You have a lovely voice." Another parishioner asked me my name and what I did. I said that I was a middle school counselor. The service went on, I loved the sermon, and then we all began to walk out. "Not so fast!", Father Arnold (the priest) might have said. He introduced himself to me before I had the chance to slip away, and he said, "I heard that you should be in the choir. I'll introduce you, in a moment, to our choir director. But first, I also heard you were a middle school counselor. We are in need of an extra middle school youth group advisor. Would you be interested in helping out?" Ummm....no! You freaky people have already figured out that I can sing and that I like working with youth, but I was not planning on coming every Sunday!! Wait, that's what I wanted to say, but somehow, my mouth opened and I said I'd be happy to meet the youth group director. And so began at least 10 more years of working as a youth group advisor alongside some of the best people I've ever known, and working with "youth" who I keep in touch with on a regular basis and have their own "youth" at home. And the choir? There I was, at choir practice the next Thursday, and in my choir robe the next Sunday. Wow! How did that happen? I was invited. Father Arnold knew how to find peoples' strengths and prey upon them (did I say that? I meant he knew how to grow a church with the talents of others). ;) Lo and behold, Dave and I have found that same blessing of a church here in Tucson: a priest we adore (her sermons are truly God-given); a chance to lend a helping hand every Sunday for the last nine months so that we could keep "church" going; and people who want to be servants to the people around the Tucson area and beyond.
I vowed, when I became a principal, that I would do exactly that---be a servant leader but also find other servants! I would put the right people in the right positions, even if they didn't know what those might be at the time. I pray that I did the right thing by most people. Some crazy teachers even ASKED to be pushed out of their comfort zone. One first grade teacher came in one day, shut my door, and said, "I want to move next year." I said, "Well, we may have an opening in 2nd grade." "No", she answered. "I really want to move----to 5th grade." And that she did. She asked me to observe her and give her honest feedback about her questioning skills with that age group (it's tough going from teaching 1st graders to teaching 5th graders). She wanted the feedback, though, and I love her to this day for that. So many teachers show up in my dreams, even 8 years after I left that beautiful elementary school in Niceville, Florida (good dreams, not nightmares, by the way). We had so much fun---doing Relay for Life, with a captain that directed us with a vengeance; putting on a Spring Fling festival with a PTO and front office group that had that sucker down to a fine art; cleaning up after such an event, laughing and having a joyous time picking trash; singing in the front office (just the secretaries and I) and so much more.
I have been supremely blessed to be able to teach part-time at Trinity University this semester. Trinity, in San Antonio, is my alma mater. I feel that I have come full circle. I want to be there full-time, but I have so much joyful other work I get to do with the Danielson Group, Grand Canyon University, Walden University, and my own business, as well until that time comes. Working with schools and universities around the world is a gift----a true gift. I get to lend a helping hand to them, while I am given so much by doing that work as well. I was recently asked to lend a helping hand to interview an alumnus who is running his own business in Denver. What a treat to be able to write a column for our Alumni Online Newsletter. I'm so excited for another opportunity!!
Yesterday, I was working on lesson plans for an upcoming webinar when I got a phone call. One of the support staff with whom I used to work at the school where I was principal in Florida has been diagnosed with cancer, and the assistant principal thought I might be able to lend an ear and a shoulder and some words of comfort. After all, my experience with breast cancer is nothing, if not a way in which I can pay it forward as was done to me by so many people who had walked that road before me. We spent some time talking, crying, and laughing, and in the end....praying. I couldn't stop crying as my worlds seemed to be colliding----getting a chance to love on people with whom I haven't spoken for 8 years---and getting to share some of my experience, strength, and hope. My heart was light (though her burden is heavy) for the remainder of the day. Why?
Lending a hand works in mysterious ways. When I help someone else, my life is blessed 10-fold. Lending a hand? That's what school should be all about. That's what church should be all about. That's what our country should be all about. Now, why don't we start doing it? I am blessed. I pray you feel that way, too!!