Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two Weeks Notice

Posted by Jack

A lot can happen in two weeks.

For over two years, I have been teaching preschool in a learning center on the north side of Springfield. Despite some speed bumps here and there, I really enjoy the work.

And then something came up.

I caught wind of a job opening at a faith-based non-profit in my neighborhood. They have a daycare for children and various outreach ministries for teens. They also provide food and other resources to the community. One of their preschool teachers recently quit and they are looking for someone to lead the classroom and to create and implement curriculum.

At first, it sounded like a no-brainer. I have a history in the non-profit world, I love working in under-resourced communities, and I have a gift for working with children. So, I called them up and asked some questions.

Those questions raised more questions, and others after that. It turns out that trying to follow Jesus in my life and work is not always an easy process, and it often leads to some tough decisions.

It is simple, they say, but not easy.

I wrote down some of the very human thoughts I have been having lately. I thought they might be worth sharing, just to shed some light on the type of questions this discipleship thingy is leading me to ask.

Maybe this is familiar territory for you. Maybe you’ve walked through these questions before.

Or maybe not. Either way, it will not be long before the Way of the Cross collides with your way of life, leaving nothing behind but beautiful carnage. Walk with me.

My current job is pretty stable. I’ve had some significant disagreements with my employer, and even gained a reputation as a bit of a trouble-maker after blowing the whistle a few times, but I am in no immediate danger of being without work. They have even given me raises and promotions. I work at a company that has been around for decades, where there is no shortage of private-pay customers. I am as safe and secure as I have ever been.

In today’s economic climate, can I really walk away from something so solid?

Discussions of money normally bore me. However, I will admit that, for someone in my line of work, my pay rate is pretty high. I’ve been fairly comfortable.

In fact, I make more money now, at my current job, than the director makes at my potential new job. This means I’ll be taking a pretty significant pay cut if I move forward. Like 25% or more. It is easy to talk about working with the poor, but joining the poor?

I’m all about downward mobility and community development and all that… but this is my bank account we’re talking about here.

There are resources at my disposal. I don’t have a large budget or anything, but for someone who works in the classroom, I have been pretty blessed. Teaching supplies, toys and games, curriculum materials… I’ve had those things when I needed them.

I saw the new classroom I would be working in. It was empty.

There is also a certain permanence to the move; my current employer will not hold my place while I run off and test the waters at a new job. What if this doesn’t pan out? I can’t click “undo” and go back to the way things once were. I am going backwards here, dropping several rungs down the ladder I started to climb a few years ago.

Is this progress? Or the opposite? Or is “progress” what counts anyway?

So it comes to a decision. I can keep my safe job, comfortable pay, and enviable resources, or I can take a pay cut, enter a more stressful environment, and start over from scratch. Seems like quite a risk.

But, I would be working in my neighborhood.

Within walking distance of the house.

And I would spend my time with kids from this neighborhood.

And impact the lives of under-resourced children and families (98% of enrolled students live in poverty).

And I can be an influence in a place where positive male figures are almost non-existent.

And I can join the staff with an almost unheard of 4-year college degree.

And I can utilize my Bible degree to develop and teach faith-based curriculum.

And my credentials will help a growing childcare program, boosting their state rating.

And I can work in a place where I am needed, where there are not ten others like me who have grown complacent for lack of purpose.

And I can revive and strengthen old programs.

And I can build something new, lay the groundwork for bigger things.

And I can learn from my neighbors, and be challenged, and grow.

And I can do what I am wired to do, what I love to do, what I was put on this planet to do.

In other words, it is the opportunity I have been waiting for.

And praying for.

And working toward for several years.

By the way, I start in my new position next Monday. I'm going for it. I will be teaching a pre-K class, and also developing and implementing new curriculum. This week, I am transitioning out of my current job and gearing up for the new one.

I am excited, and frightened, and cheerful, and sober.

A lot can happen in two weeks.


Emily said...

Wow. I seem to remember reading a book on your mantle entitled, "And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street." As I read this entry, I was reminded of the hand-written words at the beginning of the book. Read those again. Jack, I am praying the Lord gives you the eyes to see opportunities to love and the Grace to speak and act with the abundant love of God. May your work and your heart and your sacrifice provide these kids with a vision of the Kingdom that they may not have otherwise seen. And may they then, vision in hand, be able to say something of the same sort, "to think I saw it near Mulberry Street." Great decision.

Bri DuPree said...

thanks for the post and the challenge! praying for you brother!