About a month ago I went to enjoy a drink after work with a colleague of mine. I particularly looked forward to this afternoon, as it was with one of the most respected members of our school’s faculty. As our conversation began, the topic alternated between the glory days of the past, current struggles of the present, and our dreams for the future. He spoke of his motivation for being in education, his passion for it, and the tenacity with which he approaches it every day. We talked of the insights he has gained over his long career and the joy he gets by watching his students grow. We shared personal stories, swapped tales of past adventures and the lessons we learned from these encounters.
As we progressed through this conversation, I became in awe of this dedicated professional. I could not help but grin and think to myself, what a tremendous gift this man is to our students at Moeller High School. Do they have any idea of the wealth of knowledge contained in the recesses of his mind? Do they appreciate the selflessness of this educator, who chose to dedicated himself to the development of young men despite having all of the talent and dispositions to pursue any profession?
As the conversation progressed, it came to our attention that the bartender was a former student of Moeller High School. At this revelation, he was joyfully included in our conversation. He shared with us his experience of Moeller, both the highs and the lows. He spoke highly of his art teachers, who in fact inspired him to pursue a career in art. In the midst of our discussions, I again smiled and thought how beautiful it was that this man was inspired by his education to become an artist. I pictured him producing works of art that actively lead others to adore and ponder what is good, beautiful, and true!
Soon these two men, my colleague and the artist, began reminiscing about past days at Moeller High School and I became a passive participant of the conversation seeing that this is my first year at the school. As they spoke I remained immersed in my thoughts, quietly contemplating the value of a good education. With these drifting thoughts, my eyes then wandered to a meeting occurring between four businessmen in a restaurant booth. Each man was immaculately dressed, carrying himself with presence and confidence that insinuated considerable financial success. It was clear by the demeanor of these men and the tone of their conversation that deals were being made over dinner. Once more, I held feelings of admiration towards businessmen. I pictured, by some small chance, that perhaps these men participated in the chain of events that connected the Moeller teacher and starving artist. Maybe these individuals, by their entrepreneurial spirit, created enough wealth and opportunity to afford their families the ability to provide a Catholic education for their son or daughter. Perhaps by some small chance everyone in the room was interconnected, both independently pursing their own passion yet dependently relying upon the other to get there. The teacher guided, mentored, and encouraged the artist to follow his dream. The artist continually reminded the businessmen that we are to pursue the good, the true, the beautiful. In turn, the businessmen were inspired to sacrifice and provide for their families and employers, to build wealth and opportunity that others too may experience the gift they had received. I smiled at the thought of this relationship as I looked upon the artist and his worn flannel and ripped jeans attire, the businessmen finely dressed in their Armani suits, and the teacher clothed in his chalked covered white shirt and tie.
St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians (12:4-11):
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All of these are activated by one and the same Spirit who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
Though we often ignore it, the fact of the matter is we are all codependent upon one another in an intimate way. When conscious of this truth, we approach our jobs and daily life differently. A task becomes a duty we are to meet in order to keep the circle connected. Our relationship to our neighbors becomes a bond, as we both depend on the other to find our fulfillment. Our jobs and careers become vocations, which we must fill to play our part.
A truly beautiful thought is that each of us, in our own capacity, have been chosen to build up our brothers and the kingdom of God. I pray that we may each continually discover the truth that we are no greater than anyone, but just as good as everyone!