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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Grace in Transition

Vocationally, I have had a number of twists and turns. Within the last eight years, I have been told on separate occasions--in separate locations--that (a) my rear end was getting fired immediately, (b) my contract for the next school year unfortunately could not be renewed due to financial considerations, and (c) my position in my organization would be downgraded. Thus, I know what it's like to have a less-than-ideal moment thrown in your face. Some situations are completely unjustified; others you understand are out of everyone's control; still others make a decision in the shadows and give you and others the political answers. It happens every day around the planet.

Those of you who are getting antsy, relax. I received a contract at my school and signed it.

The ennui that drips from this page comes from the news I received yesterday: A good friend of mine has been told by his employer they will be letting him go. I do not know the reasons behind this decision, so I won't attempt to speak to the particulars. I will be chatting with my friend this weekend in order to reach out to him, and maybe I'll know more then. It is especially tough because he was a colleague of mine in this institution for four years. I love this institution as he does, too. It is hard to speak of anything I don't like about this workplace. He himself has served this organization for a decade and a half. Faithfully. And yet, he finds himself without gainful employment there next year.

It is difficult for me to write this because of my deep friendship for this man. He is twenty years my senior, which means at his age there may be some issues finding a steady paycheck. He is an absolutely brilliant man. He taught World History and AP European History for many years, has dabbled in college professorships in the past, and gained a Ph. D, from the University of Virginia--hence, he is no intellectual slouch. In addition--and this will be a staggering statement to those who know me--he has forgotten more sports trivia than I have ever known. I mean, specifics like the pitch count when Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard Round the World" or the score of the last time Brown beat Princeton in Jadwin Gymnasium. He got our family and some friends from Atlanta into Ash Lawn-Highland for a gratis tour of James Monroe's home, where he served as a guide. He was forever sipping from a bottle of diet Coke, always engaging in conversation, and could graciously hold court on any topic. A true Renaissance man. A confirmed bachelor, transplanted New Jersey prep school product who spent his entire higher education life below the Mason-Dixon Line and seamlessly transitioned into a true Southern gentleman.

In truth, that's what comes to mind with my friend Roger: his graciousness. It draws you to him like a magnet. I remember stopping by his apartment the night before we moved out of the state to the next phase of our lives, simply because I wanted to tell him how much his friendship meant to me.

He would tell you that his colleagues and students mean the world to him. Whenever I've talked to or emailed him, he updates me on former students and teachers who intersected with us. It's clear that he misses us being around. In fact, in the spring of 2004, after a faculty devotional time, it was announced that I'd be leaving for another position at the end of the school year. In one of the greatest moments that still causes people to laugh, Roger forgot where he was and muttered, "Aw, s---!" loudly enough for the entire back row to hear. More dour folk would excoriate him for dropping a curse word; I counted it as a moving tribute from a dear friend.

It hits me that in this world where people can be pretty outspoken about what they believe, that my friend Roger has been the most private person in terms of talking about his faith. But when it comes to exhibiting godly virtues of patience, kindness, and generosity, he blows almost every other Christian out of the water. Many talk about faith; he lives his faith. I think it significant that--according to other friends in our circle--he has taken this new chapter in stride and bears no ill will. There's something within the heart of my friend that beats forth an abiding trust that God will provide no matter what the trial. That's a lesson that I am very slow to learn, and I am eternally grateful that he has re-taught me this bedrock truth even when it's a difficult time for him.

I believe that God will provide for Roger. And I am thankful for the godliness and grace that Roger has exhibited during this time. My friend, there is truly no one like you.