This time of the year I remember Andy Anderson. He always sent my family a ham for Christmas. It was an unnecessary gesture. For two people who often had opposing ideas, we got along very well. He gave me the gift simply because I was his Pastor. I still have a Christmas wreath his wife made for my family. I received many gifts from that family.
One of the best gifts was when my father suffered a heart attack. Andy drove to the hospital to sit with my extended family (God love him just for that). Later I was told he had said, “Pastor sits with us when we have something going on, who sits with him when his family has trouble?” He got in his car and went to the hospital.
Andy was one of those Christians who was ready to help. His actions were guided by his study of the Bible and by what he had been taught. I knew of other actions he took for other people. He did not tell me about them either. He was generous with his time. He was generous with his possessions. He even took a shift each day caring for his ex-wife when she was dying. He once told me when the church youth group was having a pool party at his home. “No one needs all of this. It’s why I share it.” It was a good lesson to remember.
Andy told me he really loved my Bible studies. I enjoy teaching Bible studies. They are fun to develop. I try to make the discussion lively. When Andy died an untimely death, his widow said, “Andy always loved arguing with you.”
Sometimes the students can do more than their teachers. I am always glad to hear someone has put my advice into practice or took a lesson I gave to heart. Granted, I don’t have that satisfaction with everyone. Neither am I everyones idea of a teacher. I love to do it because sometime the point will come that I taught someone something that will make a difference in their lives.
I got the taste for this type of teaching early on in my life. Camp Buck Toms Boy Scout Camp in Rockwood Tennessee allowed me my first effort in teaching. I taught the Emergency Preparedness merit badge. The lesson plan was merely the list of requirements to earn the award. The only taxing part was getting everyone to pay attention while they fulfilled the requirements. We got to do some pretty cool stuff for emergency situations. The best lesson we all learned was that emergencies are never the same. One has to learn to think on one’s feet and to act quickly. I learned years later that one of the scouts that took my course kept a friend of his (and mine) from bleeding to death following an automobile accident. Usually when an emergency presents itself I keep my head well enough to take care of what needs doing then. I get emotional after the crisis has passed.
I knew though from that experience I wanted to teach. I was ordained an Elder which charged me to ministries of Word (Preaching and teaching) and Sacrament (baptism and holy communion). I did not become a school teacher. I have done some guest lecturing. And, obviously, I do some writing. I spend time learning so I have something to teach to someone else. It is really a good calling to have. A calling stays with a person throughout their lives even if it becomes an avocation.
When a person can’t fulfill that calling he or she tends to fall apart as a person. I have witnessed this in former colleagues and in people who simply cannot do the jobs they love anymore. It is said that until the day of his own death Stan Laurel wrote skits to be performed by him and his friend Oliver Hardy fifteen years after Oliver died. It was what he loved. He knew it would hasten his own demise not to write the skits and jokes even if they would not be performed. I personally would like to see those performed by some comedic pair. I bet they are wonderful.
How do I know for a fact teaching is my calling? That’s an easy one to answer.
Years ago in Oak Ridge I taught a course for “lay speakers/servants” for local United Methodist Churches. I joked that up to that point my appointments in the church had to be near a lake because I like fishing. After one session, a fellow came to me and said, “Our church is right on the lake. Maybe you will be sent to us.”
“Oh yeah. Which lake?”
“Watts Bar.” He replied.
“Oh, I have already live on that one.”
“When?” He asked.
“When I was a teenager I taught during the summers at Camp Buck Toms.” I said.
His face lit up. “I knew you were familiar!” He said excitedly. “You taught me Emergency Preparedness.”