Nothing lasts on Earth. Nothing at all.
Is that a good thing?
Depends on your outlook.
If you are adventurous, you like doing new things all the time. You create change. Things that last probably bore you.
If you prefer security, commitment and long-term involvement, then change gets in the way. You might even fear it.
What if change comes, and you wish it wouldn’t?
I’m finding it hard to remain committed to much of anything these days. Maybe I have some secret anger, a restlessness, an insecurity, an impatience with something that keeps me from things that last.
Perhaps it’s none of those things. Perhaps this is just the way life is.
For example, I enjoy mentoring elementary-age students through local schools. Many children these days need a good male role model. If I can help, I enjoy doing that.
Our church in Saginaw, Mich., partnered with the elementary school across the street, and that’s where I first got involved. I showed up at lunchtime and played games with the student, ate lunch with him, and gave him encouragement. Sometimes I helped him with homework that he didn’t finish in the morning.
That lasted a couple of years, until we moved to Rockford, Ill. A month or two after we moved there, I found a reading program through Rockford Public Schools. That winter/spring and the following fall, I spent an hour in a classroom, reading with four students whom the teacher sent to me in 15-minute segments. I assisted them with words they had trouble pronouncing, and I helped with their comprehension – do you understand what you are reading?
We moved away after a year to Elyria, Ohio. I found a lunchtime mentoring program at Midview Schools in nearby Grafton. After a year, that program disappeared and I never heard from the school district again.
So I connected with Greater Cleveland Volunteers, which introduced me to My Mentor My Friend, a lunchtime mentoring program at four elementaries in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. I picked the school on the west side of Cleveland (the other three schools all were on the east side), and mentored three students there in a little more than a year.
Trying to make a difference
My first student there moved away in the summer. My second student, probably a loner like me, seemed uncomfortable with the one-on-one attention and dropped out of the program. My third student also moved away this summer.
That’s the lifestyle of the typical low-income inner-city student. Many live with one parent, or in the case of one of my students, with Grandpa. The parent often rents and moves across town frequently. My last student told me his dad got a job in Arizona, and he was planning to move out there to be with him. Dad said Cleveland was too violent. The student had anger management issues and it wasn’t unusual for him to be on suspension when I showed up to mentor.
Did I make a difference? Only God knows. I will never see the long-term results of any student I have mentored thus far, in any district in any state.
That’s just the way it is.
And now, My Mentor My Friend lost its United Way funding and has ended.
The Cleveland school district might keep the mentoring program going on its own. We’ll see. I’m also looking into another mentoring program in Lorain, which is nearer to my home. Either way, it’s another new start.
Elyria City Schools doesn’t have a mentoring program, a teacher there told me recently, because of the work involved to set up and administer such a program. I get that. When a man wants to work with children, red flags go up, don’t they?
At each school district, I had to pass a background check. In Cleveland, I also faced two interviews, fingerprinting and had to provide references – as intensive as any job interview I’ve had.
A year and a half later, is it all for naught?
Where’s the passion?
I’ve had trouble keeping jobs long-term as well. I had one job that lasted eight weeks. The job in Rockford lasted 14 months. My first job here in Elyria lasted 13 months. My next job lasted 2.5 years, but I got burned out. Without going into details, that job is over too.
I enjoy volunteering in the community. Mentoring, yes, but doing other things as well.
It’s me and God now. I no longer answer to a supervisor.
Will I find work again? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Financially, we are doing well.
And, as I said, I’m burned out. Impatient. Perhaps angry.
I have no home on Earth. I’ve felt that way for a long time.
The Rev. Doug Mater, who is the current pastor of a former church where we worshipped and served, wrote the following in a church newsletter earlier this year:
How often do we let our God-given strengths go to waste? We spend so much time trying to overcome our limitations by doing things we are not equipped to do. On the contrary, we should consider our special talents for ministry and focus on doing these things better, asking ourselves if we are trying to do something that we are not equipped to do, just for the sake of thinking I need to be different. …
We must continue to be the best we can at these talents so that others will see us as Christians who care about others and want them to share in the joy that we have in Jesus Christ. So, I ask you to look at your talents and keep practicing them. … Let us excel for God with the talents He has given us for his glory.
That’s a great message. Often we focus on our weaknesses and try to get better. Or take a job, any job, just to meet the budget.
Instead, we should emphasize our strengths and do them with passion.
What am I “equipped to do?” Do I have any “special talents?” How can I “excel for God?”
As I face yet another transition in my life, this is a good time to ponder such questions.
The journey continues.