Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Servant Mentality

One of the most important things in the narrative of both my personal and professional lives is that I want to serve a greater purpose. This servant mentality has shaped the decisions I have made and the positions I have taken.

The servant mentality means that the service is not just to the bottom line. The bottom line is important too, but it is not the full measure of success. Success to me has instead been more on the people I have reached and the lives I have touched. 

I started realizing this when I was in graduate school at Kansas State examining literature. I was tasked to teach introductory writing to help pay my way in school. For me, it soon became obvious that I could have more impact in teaching writing skills and helping students be more prepared for their futures than I could in being the thousandth person to puzzle over the symbolism of snow in James Joyce’s “The Dead”.  Watching as my students grew more confident with their writing voices and technical skills made me realize my future wasn’t in research.

It was lucky enough to find a position at Saint Rita that allowed me to have the same sort of impact. I enjoyed the opportunity to be both teacher and coach. And even though some of the young men were exasperating, I know that in my time there I helped them grow and develop not just in the subject area but it life itself. I recently talked to one of them on Facebook, and he told me “You were still one of my top 5 teachers that shaped my experience.” Now, it’s not number one.  However, he didn’t have to say it and being remembered after a decade is what you want as a teacher in serving your charges.

After Saint Rita, I was at a crossroads. I feel fortunate that I found a professional home at Community Support Services in Brookfield. It is here that I have really found not just a professional home but I made Brookfield my home too. In my roles at CSS I am not in direct service with our participants. From the very beginning I have been aware that I was in key positions that facilitated the services that we do. I could leverage my skills to be of service to people with disabilities. Making sure the money is coming in keeps the lights on for all the services that we do. I have also been able to develop relationships with several of the people we serve. Knowing that they can thrive because of our service as an organization makes all my and my colleague’s hard work worth it.

And it doesn’t end with CSS. I’m running for the Library Board because I want to help serve the citizens of Brookfield to have the best infrastructure possible. It will continue after the election no matter the outcome. The servant life is what has chosen me.