Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not about the Money

I used to want to be famous. I wanted to see my name printed on the front of a book as I browsed Barnes & Noble. I wanted the interview on the national television network, and the occasional recognition of my name or face at the local coffee house or grocery store. I knew it was a silly dream: not unattainable, but not necessarily a worthy goal.

I have a new goal now. I want to be like Becky. I didn't know I wanted to be like Becky, until I attended her memorial service yesterday.

I knew Becky through the church choir. I didn't know her well; I knew she worked in a school, that she was a seasoned vocalist, and had a strong faith in God. She died a few weeks ago, in her early sixties, after a 6-month bout with an aggressive cancer.

There was an amazing variety of people at the service. I dare not say funeral, because it really wasn't a time of mourning. It was truly a celebration of one woman's life. Staff and children from the school where she taught music for 16 years, members of our church and the one she attended up to a year ago, members of her traveling singing group... This simple, kind, Christian woman used every bit of God-given talent and faith to encourage and teach others, passing her legacy on through her family, her students, and everyone she came into contact with.

The experience truly made me question, what do I want people to say after I'm gone from this earth? Will I have made a difference? How many people will be able to say that knowing me affected their lives in a positive way, paving the way to stronger relationship with God?

And as Becky's life demonstrates, we never know how much time we have to leave that legacy. I may have 70 minutes or 70 years- who knows? So the decisions I make now, about how I spend my time and who I spend it with, are going to determine what kind of mark I leave on this world. And that kind of mark is more permanent than the ink of a printing press.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Children as Canvas

I've never been much of an artist. I can sketch well enough that the object is recognizable, but my drawings of people and my playdoh figurines probably haven't changed much since 4th grade. I appreciate art- color, contrast, texture... but I would never consider myself an artist.

I prefer a different kind of canvas. Every day I get to read stories to elementary-aged students. Those faces, and the minds behind them, are my canvas. I'm not a teacher, per se, but I know that connecting children to characters, to stories, to books, to reading... provides building blocks for education and intellectual curiosity. I believe advancing literacy is more important than achieving high scores on standardized tests, although there certainly is a correlation.

Working as a librarian, even temporarily, is like spending time with my childhood friends. From Green Eggs and Ham to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the whole Nancy Drew series, the amazing illustrations of Eric Carle, Tomie de Paola, and Maurice Sendak... and the company of a thousand other characters, I am home. I credit my academic success, my imagination, my analytical mind, my love of stories, and my desire to communicate through the written word to those early years reading everything I could find.

I know reading books seems outdated to some, under the premise that we are in the electronic age, that all information can be sought online and "books" can be downloaded. But when I see the faces of 5-year-olds who get their very own book, even for just a week, about princesses or kitty cats or birthdays or spiders or whatever excites them... I know books still have value, and that the more children have access to books instead of TV, computers, and video games, the better chance the next generation has to know themselves, to achieve success, to build relationships with others, to learn from the past, to share ideas, and to build a better tomorrow for themselves and generations to come.

Be a hero. Connect a child to a book today.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Legacy and Leadership

I'm not sure what the Sunday school lesson was supposed to be about (forgive me, Debie), although it was something about leaving a legacy.

Our discussion came around to leadership, and whether it is a leader's responsibility if the followers don't follow. 

"Yes!" said my brother-in-law emphatically, the regional manager for a cell-phone company. "If they can't get the job done, they're gone."

Yet, time and time again, the Bible draws a picture of leaders who encouraged, warned, used word pictures and metaphors, put their own lives and lifestyles at risk, to lead people in God's ways. The people they were supposed to lead were often outright defiant, worshiping other gods and pursuing pagan lifestyles. 

A pastoral mentor told me once, "if you want to know if you're a good leader, turn around and see who's following you."

So which is it? Is a leader measured by his or her principles, or by the number of people who are charmed into following, a la the Pied Piper?

I believe a leader has to have certain skills to influence others, but I want to follow a leader that has principles and values I agree with, and who does the right thing, even if it's not popular. This is why I keep my nose out of politics, because there are so few people in the arena who represent this ideal.

And if I am to be a leader, I want to be a leader like Jesus, who doesn't cut people off when they fail or fall away. No one is a lost cause; no person is beyond His reach. If I don't have followers, I want to know that I have done what is right and what I have been called to do. That is the legacy I want to leave behind.