At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Professional Memories

I got a phone call out of the blue yesterday.

Technically, that's not true. The phone call actually lodged itself in my school voice mail on March 21st, during my spring break. And I didn't get to it until yesterday because Sunday's snowstorm (the sixth-heaviest snowfall on record in St. Louis history) kept us away from school Monday. So I check my messages and there's a gentleman leaving a message for me to call him back. Southern drawl. I mean, thick Southern drawl that would get him an instant casting spot in The Help. Even before he identified where he was calling from, my sixth sense told me Mississippi.

True enough, he was calling from the center of the Magnolia State. With a very pertinent question, but he needed to ask me personally. Could I call him back?

Thus began a day-long stretch of phone tag before he finally snagged me when I was headed home in afternoon traffic today. So why was he calling me?

"Well, Luke, I was given your name by Mickey Bowdon."

Explains it all. Mickey was my first headmaster from my first teaching position in Louisiana. It was Mickey who gave me my start in teaching; who was very--I would say extremely--patient with my stumbles, fumbles, and falls early on; who thought the best of me when I also believed he was crazy to do so. That Mickey still believed in me enough to pass my name along to this man, who happened to be a principal at a private school.

I smiled. Good times. If there's a wiser, cooler hand at the wheel than Mickey Bowdon, I haven't met that person.

But back to the phone call. It turned out that this principal had an issue on his plate and needed my help.

"We're creating a new position next year here, one of spiritual life director, and Mickey seemed to think you could help us with coming up with a job description. Is that possible?"

Usually, when I'm talking about job descriptions, I'm in the mix for the position in question. This was something new, being asked by someone I've never met to help in the quest to create a new position for them.

"I think I might have something in my files," I said. "Give me through this evening to find it."

And find it I did, which sent me back down memory lane again.

There it was, in a document in a folder on my computer. JOB DESCRIPTION: Campus Pastor, Wellington Christian School.

A job description that was created when I interviewed for and was offered that position in May 2006.

More memories. Christy and I flew down to Palm Beach County and met with the headmaster of Wellington Christian School, Mr. Joe Austin. I remember sitting around a conference table with Joe and several others, with Christy at my side. And I asked, "So do we have a copy of the job description?"

And Joe, bless his incredible heart, said, "Well, I thought we'd piece the job description here and now. There are some general things we think are a part of this, but we'd also like to hear from you, about your gifts and abilities, and then we'll tailor the job description to meet with your passions."

Blank look from me. What?

Joe shrugged with a smile and said, "I believe in putting people where their passions are. Simple as that."

What a man. It was taking a risk, to be sure, but it opened up an opportunity to join with a school (and church) community in a vocation that I truly loved.

So this has been a day of remembrance for me. Thinking back on what Mickey and Joe have done for me in the past has been a massive encouragement. Day in and day out in the present can go up and down. But when I think back to the people who have believed in me along the way, I remember only the good. Because that's truly what matters.

I sent the job description to the principal in Mississippi tonight. Maybe sometime soon it'll be part of a process where he hires someone for a new opportunity. A process that will be part of another young man's professional memory bank. If so, I'm glad to play a role in that, even from the shadows.

We have those memories. Sometimes they are what get us through the day. Don't ignore them for one moment.

Until later.

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