I still remember the t-shirt my mother wore around the house when she cleaned. It was worn. It was old but it boldly wore the brand that captured my father’s work life. This brand seeped its way into our very being. It was the supposed Post Office slogan: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” My father spent his entire work life with the United States Postal Service. He was a mail carrier and spent many years as a supervisor. He enjoyed the former much more than the latter. His work ethic was like no other. He was always on the job. Of course it didn’t help that we lived three blocks from the West Hempstead Post Office. I can’t tell you how many times the carriers locked themselves out of the parking lot after hours. They called. He responded. He had patience with most things but none for those who gave less than 140% in life. It is for this reason that we feared my father more than the Friendly’s manager when we felt like calling in sick at the age of sixteen. We just couldn’t do it.
Similar to the Post Office 24/7 life, I find myself always connected. Yet, with technology push notifications, I can be more than three blocks away to accomplish what is needed as a servant leader. If we aren’t servant leaders, we become followers from the top of the pyramid. Many people always comment on it. Do you ever sleep? Do you ever not answer an email within two hours? Do you ever shut off Twitter? Do you feel like you have too much screen time? Is the Apple Watch better or worse for your work life? What about your own time? The questions go on and on. I do aim for more balance. I do. But, I always want those who are following behind or to the side to be shielded from the weather up ahead.
For the past few years, it has hit me how losing a parent impacts the things you do each day. Your mind is always focused on how to live up to the expectations, the legacy, and the liturgy to which you were cultured. We were never a family of religion. Yet, the “religion” that we knew was you work hard to get the best grades, you respect your family and friends, you love unconditionally, you rise above obstacle, and as the Post Office forced upon us…you weather the storms that come your way. If my father were to read Don Gately’s blog, he would agree with Don and the way his mother lived. “We cannot determine what will happen to us in life, but we get to decide how we will respond.” We can create the weather at times and when we can’t, we won’t let it stop us from completing “our appointed rounds” of what need to do for kids. The many obstacles that jump into our path should never diminish our work ethic. Like my mother, educators need to wear this brand. We must believe in seeing beyond tradition and develop our craft based on our students’ unique and ever-changing platforms, regardless, as Don noted in his post, it “feels right or [it’s] easy for us.” We can’t, as George Couros stated in The Innovator’s Mindset, become “companies, like Blockbuster, that refuse to let go of outdated business models” even when the weather is something far beyond what we predicted.