By: Mindy Dennison*
In some capacity, I have worked with almost every grade-level, from Pre-K to 12th grade, over the past ten years. With the exception of the two year hiatus I took to be with my kids, I have taught at least one high school class every year. Some students I only get to know for their senior year. Others I am blessed to mentor and teach for multiple years, sometimes all four, of their high school career. Most of the time, they teach me, too.
At the end of the year, I find myself scrambling to complete their education. Not as musicians, but as people. I think of things I want them to know while I try to sleep at night, while I’m getting ready in the morning, or driving to and from work. I pat them on the back or hug them more often. I ask them about their plans, and offer help if they have not finalized them. I write recommendations for scholarships and serve as a reference for jobs. I let them “friend” me on Facebook. I remind them to check in with in me from time to time.
And sometimes I find myself saying things to them that seem silly, but that I really want them to know:
Don’t wait to tell people you love them. Call your parents. Always carry a little cash. Step out of your comfort zone every now and then. Volunteer. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Accept that failure is part of learning. Drink lots of water. Wear sunscreen. Treat yourself occasionally. Try not to let your gas tank get below ¼ full. The experts are wrong: it’s perfectly okay to go to bed angry. You’ll be amazed what a little daylight will do for that anger. Don’t expect to magically have all the answers when you turn 18 or graduate from college. And don’t panic when you don’t.
But more than anything, I want you to remember this:
No matter how much you love what you do, always love people more.
I believe this is at the heart of Christian faith. In fact, I believe this is being a Christian. No matter where on the spectrum of liberal to conservative your beliefs lie, we all agree Jesus was pretty clear about two things: love GOD and love PEOPLE. There really is no getting around that command from Jesus. There is no, “well, let’s look at historical context…”, or “the Hebrew/Greek/Latin has multiple meanings…” when it comes to loving people.
Notice I didn’t say you have to like people. You may not be a “people person”. And that’s okay. You don’t have to work with people to work on their behalf. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a job anywhere that doesn’t touch people in some way. You may not work directly with many people in a medical research lab. But your work could inevitably touch many people. As a journalist or a writer, you may not see the way your words affect those that read them. But they will. Your work, even if done in
solitude, will find a way to influence the lives of people.
That is why loving people is so important. Love will hold you accountable to the knowledge that your work will find its way into the lives of others. It will drive you to work toward the benefit of others. And that is the only way we can ever bring about positive change.
Yes, people can be a source of pain in your life; but people will also be the main source of joy, healing, help, encouragement, laughter, comfort, hope, and love. It’s okay to be passionate about your career. But always love people more. People will always have the greatest return for your investment. Love GOD and love people…and by doing the latter we are fulfilling the former.