It’s been twenty years, but I still remember.
Before I had kids, before I worked in education, I had a senior management position in human resources for a sizeable company. My appointment that morning was with a young lady from the local job resource center and a gentleman who was the friend of my boss. The proposition they laid before me was if there was a way that I could redesign any job descriptions to enable a young man with nonverbal Autism to gain job experience in a real working environment. As a bi-vocational minister, I had always preached from I Corinthians 12 – encouraging my congregants to use their gifts and graces in ways that complemented each other and positively impacted the local community. I also had adopted that as my credo in filling personnel needs at my workplace – I was confident that I everyone had abilities and just had to be coached to the right spot where they could be productive and happy members of a growing workforce. Confronted with this request, this time, for the first time, I wasn’t sure.
But the ironic thing about exterior challenges to one’s faith precepts, it requires an insightful reflective look at what the demands of scripture really are. As we stumbled along the next month, finding just the right fit and tasks, I began to realize that I was not only the giver, but also the receiver – of grunts, patience, a fleeting smile. It dawned on me, oh so slowly, that human interrelations were not to be defined by productivity alone – but by so many other human dimensions themselves. Every person, formed in their Creator’s image has a vital place in the full complement of society.
Today, when I teach a targeted lesson in fluency, guide a student in the latest assistive technology, or de-escalate a young man from another violent outburst, I always remember the lessons I learned twenty years ago: Every student I work with is just as much my teacher as I am theirs.
Rev. Dr. Marvin J. Miller is the Pastor of Wellington First Assembly (Kansas) and serves as the President of the CEC-FBSO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.