A friend sent me a quote some months back that characterized leadership as being restless for change, impatient for progress and deeply dissatisfied with the status quo. While I might not be characterized as a visionary leader that brings out the best in those I lead, I am most certainly impatient. I could write textbooks on leadership if all you had to be was restless, impatient and dissatisfied.
As an idealist, I dream of a brighter day for the Stewart Center when we provide under-resourced children with educational opportunities that rival those accessible to children from middle and upper class families. As a realist, I acknowledge that the Center’s finances, leadership, facilities, and fundraising potential are seemingly years away from supporting the Stewart Center that resides in my dreams.
Jim Collins, in Good to Great and the Social Sectors notes, “To make the greatest impact on society requires first and foremost a great organization, not a single great program.” With that in mind, the Center is working to become an organization capable of impacting our community well into the future. If the Stewart Center is on the path to greatness it has not been a straight and narrow road. Over the past three years the Center’s journey toward greatness has been slowed, if not detoured, by our perpetual fight against the age, condition and vandalism of our facilities along with school redistricting, unrealized ministry partnerships, staff turnover, fundraising struggles and my own lack of experience.
Our middle school students are currently engaged in an introductory study of the life and ministry of Jesus. We are exploring Jesus’ life from birth to resurrection though a survey of the Gospels so that our students might have a basic knowledge of Jesus and his centrality to the Christian faith. Recently, while preparing for the study, I was reminded that Jesus’ life was not an uninterrupted march toward death and resurrection. His journey to the cross and empty tomb, events most Christian’s find salvific, was not without detour.
Instances such as Jesus’ infant flight to Egypt, the surprising request by the centurion for his servant, the paralytic being lowered while Jesus was teaching, the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage while on the way to heal Jairus’ daughter, the syrophoenician woman’s interruption, the disturbance caused by the woman caught in adultery and the repeated inquisitions by religious leaders can appear to be detours on Jesus’ journey to reconcile God and humanity. I wonder if these, and other events like them, were not detours but were in fact Jesus’ actual mission veiled by our human tendency toward ambition, success, pride and the unquenchable desire to be right.
The Stewart Center is not where I want it to be but it might be where Jesus wanted to be; with the people. When I see the joy on our children’s faces at the fall festival, listen to our first graders read with confidence, receive the heart felt gratitude from grandparents and see our middle school students stare down at the world from atop the Empire State Building I cannot help but think, ‘at this rate we may never be great but we might just be moving slow enough to experience others as Jesus did’…