An Educator Survival Kit

Anne WilsonWhat Every Leader Needs to Know

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Are there days when you feel like you’re barely hanging on?  Do you ever feel like you don’t have the energy to attend another meeting? After a tough Sunday morning, do you wonder where to turn for renewal and strength? Being an introvert I don’t often seek out other people for help or a shoulder to cry on. Instead I find myself returning to my desk and seeking solitude and comfort simply from the items that surround me. One might call this collection my “Educator Survival Kit.”

The memories from my framed photographs keep me grounded and remind me of what’s important. My favorite one is of my mentor Lillian Biddison sitting with our two kids when they were preschool age. It was because of Lillian (the children’s ministry director for 27 years at our church) that I first started volunteering on Sunday mornings. I like to think she is still smiling as she watches how the lives of these two young people and their mom have unfolded.

A box of tissues always comes in handy. Whether I need to occasionally shed a tear myself or comfort a visiting member or colleague, a continuous flow of tissues popping up one after another is an essential item in my office.

Two competing bumper stickers adhered to my filing cabinets always bring a smile to my face. One reads, “Jesus is coming, look busy.” The other has a picture of Garfield exclaiming, “I don’t have time to be this busy!” I am reminded that the call to educational ministry is not about staying busy. It is a charge to faithfully teach and share and live the story of Jesus Christ.

My bottomless in-basket at times feels overwhelming, but I have accepted the fact that it won’t be empty in my lifetime. And that’s a good thing. I find gratification in knowing that my work and my ministry will never come to an end. There will always be opportunities to further the Kingdom of God.

My green plant is a source of fresh air.  Not only does it cleanse the air by removing toxins, it also converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. Every office/room should have a pathos ivy because it can thrive with very little light and requires minimal care. When its leaves begin to wilt due to neglect, just a little bit of water brings it back to life. How inspiring it is to see something that is faltering be so easily revived!

In the pot of this green plant perches a miniature wind chime.  When I whoosh into my office, I often generate enough of a breeze to send the chimes into song. What a lovely reminder that the Holy Spirit is never still and that who I am and everything I do is the result of God’s Spirit moving within me.

When I really need a break, I use books to help me escape for several minutes. In his book, Reading for Preaching, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., says, “General reading can enlarge the preacher’s [educator’s] sympathies for people and situations that she or he had previously known nothing about.” I am inspired by the discipline of my educator friend who dedicates an hour each workday to simply read.

I also keep several devotional books on hand. So often I am asked to lead an opening reflection for a meeting. The preparation and the selection of just the right text and story are a gift of Sabbath time for me.

I reach for my collection of notecards regularly because everyone loves to get a personal note in the mail. I always feel better when I focus on the gifts and generosity of others. In taking a few moments to write someone a letter of appreciation, an acknowledgement of a job well done, or just a little note to say, “I’m thinking about you,” I am affirming and confirming the relationships which ministry is all about.

And last, but by no means least, is my stash of peanut M & M’s.  I take advantage of after-Halloween sales and buy enough snack-sized bags of these little bundles of protein to last for a year. There are times when a handful of M & M’s puts a smile on my face, gives me enough energy to prepare for the next meeting, and reminds me that all is right with the world once again.  Amen!  Let it be so!

Anne Wilson is the 2014 President of APCE. She has served as the chair of both the Strategic Planning Task Force and the Restructuring Task Force. Her first three years of service on the Cabinet were as the Asian American Representative. She retired from the staff at Northwoods Presbyterian Church in Houston in 2009 where she served as the director of children and family ministry. She has also served on the staff of two other Presbyterian churches in Houston. The accomplishments for which Anne and her husband are most proud are raising their two children, Meredith and Michael, whose families have produced two grandsons and six grand-dogs.