Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Principal's Office: Home Sweet Home...

A new school year will begin in a few weeks.  Teachers will soon return to the classrooms to prepare.  There will be in service days, convocations, and lots of meetings.  A new crew of kids will begin the K-12 portion of their educational journey.

But this year there will be no calls from the principal telling me that my son threw a rock at another child on the playground.  Randall confessed to that infraction as a 5 year old in 1994, but felt no remorse.  He compared himself to David facing Goliath. And when I didn’t buy that story, he reminded me that police officers only use force to defend themselves, and not to purposely harm someone. And of course he quoted me as he referenced that principle.   That was my first visit to see the principal on behalf of one of my children, but not the last one by any means.

In 1998, a first grade teacher told me in a conference that in essence that Daniel operated to the beat of a different drummer.  It was not intended as a compliment. I scheduled a meeting with the teacher and the principal.  In looking back on it, I can see now why Randall was not shy in dealing with Goliath on the playground.  My approach to the teacher was direct and to the point.  I was not shy.  And that was my second visit to the principal’ office, but not the last one by any means.

By the time 2002 rolled around, Mitchell was in the first grade. How could I miss a visit to the principal’s office?  Apparently he got in a fight with another student, and it was one of those times that I actually thought poor Mitchell might just be right.  I put on my white dress shirt with a red tie.  And I wore a dark suit with that red tie.  I was going to approach the principal with an authoritative look.  She proceeded to invite me in her office and placed me in a tiny chair made for first graders situated in front of her desk.  I should point out that this particular principal was about 4’10” with high heels on. I looked a little silly in my dark suit and red power tie looking up at the principal from my first grader’s chair.  I was of no help whatsoever to Mitchell that day. It was my third visit to the principal’s office, but not the last one by any means.

And then there was a final visit to the principal’s office about that same time period.  Randall and on
 of his friends in middle school got in a fist fight.  There was really no hard feelings between them, but the principal called me to the school.  “Mr. Knox, are you familiar with ISS? “  (Short for In School Suspension)  I sat up straight and told him I was a charter member of ISS. I spoke with pride.  Sheryl Wallace and I were prison buddies at Monterey High School in 1979 during our stint in ISS.  He was not sure what to do with that comment… But it was my final visit to the principal’s office.

2014 rolled around way too fast. Randall is a college graduate.  He is writing scripts for potential movies and television shows.   Some of those scripts may include rock throwing.  Daniel is a college graduate too.  He too is the creative type.  He hopes to do some film directing. And Mitchell starts to college this fall.   I may get a call from the Dean of Students regarding Mitchell, but there will be no more calls from the principal. I am going to miss going to the principal’s office.  I started my visits there as early as early as 1967.  I wonder if those early visits prompted the later ones….. I still own a dark suit and a red tie just in case there is a student out there in need of an advocate…And I will gladly return as needed to the familiarity of the principal’s office.

Today I am grateful for the small army of public educators that helped shape my boys academically, socially, and ethically.  They were a blessing to our home for 20 years.  I am indeed thankful.  Blessings on the teachers and yes…the principals too. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

You are Asking the Wrong Guy!

Sometimes you ask the wrong guy an important question…Or maybe I have it backwards.  Perhaps in this case he asked the right guy.

It was Friday afternoon.  I took vacation days for the entire week to work on schoolwork and chores around the house.   But as it turned out, I was the only minister on our church staff in town that day.  So I got the call… A man called the church office requesting a minister to come and visit his dying mother.  We take such requests seriously.  I went to the hospital promptly and met this man and family.  I prayed over his aging mother.  The family members are nice people and it was a good visit.

When we stepped out of the hospital room, he asked me a question that has probably been posed to me three or four time in 27 years.  The question:  “How much do you charge to do a funeral service?”  I promptly told him that I would gladly serve his family in that role and that I don’t charge for such a service.   He was clearly taken aback.  After all, nothing is free.   We exchanged phone numbers. And I am certain that I will get back up to the hospital to check on his mother and pray with her again.

As I walked off, I realized that I failed to tell him something that was pertinent to our conversation.  My father passed away unexpectedly in 1978.  I was 15 years old.  We had no church home.  The closest thing to a minister we knew was Father Mulchay on MASH.  But a friend of my brother-in-law’s came to our home and agreed to the do the service.  I don’t remember this for a fact, but knowing my proper Southern mother I know she asked the same question. What do you charge do a funeral service?  That fine gentleman refused to take anything, and he treated us like he had known us for decades.  

Friday afternoon at the hospital that man had no idea that he was asking the wrong guy about being paid for officiating at a funeral.   As he asked, my mind quickly traveled back to 1978. I may have been standing in the hallway at the hospital, but in my mind I was 15 years old again sitting at the dining room table with a kind man that refused to take any money for officiating at a stranger’s funeral.   He just asked the wrong guy about money.  Or maybe he asked the right one. 

Next time I see him I will share a story from 1978...

  Cline Paden is deceased now, but he was one fine man. In 1978, he was directing a training school for ministers.  But he took the time out of a very busy schedule to serve a family that were complete strangers to him with complete dignity.   My life mission will continue to be to serve such strangers with an equal amount of compassion and dignity.   

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Did NOT Listen to Peaches and Herb in the 70's....But About this Matter of Reuniting...

I most certainly did not listen to the popular group Peaches and Herb in the ‘70’s.  But the girls I ran around with did.  My friend Elizabeth frequently rode to school with me in the mornings.  As she put her makeup on the car while I drove, she would say:  “Turn it up!  I love that song!”  The song “Reunited” from Peaches and Herb was one of those turn it up songs.  It was sweet and syrupy. The chorus rang out: “reunited and it feels so good.”  It no doubt appealed to the hearts of 16 year old girls. 

When I was 16 or 17, I had no clue that reuniting would become such a prominent experience in my adult life.  I suspect there were two reasons for such for being so na├»ve in that regard.  At that age, I didn’t understand that relationships are priceless.   And at the time I did not comprehend the sheer amount of interpersonal brokenness that exists in people’s lives.

This past weekend I was reminded that reuniting feels so good… A friend and fellow student with me in the master’s program in Mental Health Counseling met up with her brother for the first time in her adult life.  She has been on a journey for the past several months searching for her family.  That journey culminated Sunday with a meeting with her brother that she did not know existed until recently.  The picture of the two of them on facebook brought tears to my eyes.  The look on their faces was priceless.  The power of reuniting was evident.  

A number of years ago I watched the movie Antwone Fisher.  It is based on a true story. There really is a man named Antwone Fisher.  He is a poet and speaker among other things.  The movie chronicles his journey to find his family.   He was separated from them at a young age and subsequently raised in an abusive foster home.  The story of course is true, so consequently it is not all pretty.  But the final scene in that movie is one of the most powerful endings to a motion picture that I have ever seen.  I won’t ruin it for you, but I would encourage you to see the movie. 

But more importantly, I would urge you not postpone the process of reuniting.  Is there a family member you need to find?  Or have you lost contact with a dear friend?   I have reconnected with friends and family alike over the last several years.  The experience has been indescribable.  In a world full of brokenness, reuniting restores our hearts and brings us peace.  What a joy it has been to watch a friend find her brother.   There is just nothing quite like it.

I did not. I repeat I did NOT listen to Peaches and Herb in the 1970’s, but thanks to Elizabeth and others forcing me to turn up the radio I still recall the chorus that rings out…”.reunited  and it feels so good….”