When I approached you about being interviewed for The Messy Middle I wrote, “I feel sad to write what I’m going to write. I don’t want you to die, ever. And I don’t think you want to die ever either, but here we are. The end of your time in Nanchang is nearer than I want to admit.” I said I wanted to do just what I’m doing now: write what you mean to me personally, what you’ve meant to our organization, and the legacy you leave.
Your answer surprised me. After saying you were touched and game you wrote: Actually, I’m not sure what you would say about me personally AT ALL… I didn’t realize that you really knew that much about me and my work and what I’ve done here in Nanchang. I know I’ve been here a long time and that says a lot in itself but much more than that, you haven’t been here, seen it or talked to my students and leaders in person…
Connie, I don’t want to overplay my hand. I know you, probably more than you realize, but in this line of scattered work (and with the internet now, scattered lives) we are impacted, touched, taught by those who are at a distance.
Here is what I’ll take from knowing you from a distance all these years:
- Be yourself. Connie, when you moved to China, all your hugging, well, let’s just say some wondered how that was going to go over in a culture that’s not big on hugging. But because it flowed so utterly and completely from the core of your being … it works.
- Look for what can be built on and build there. You’ve taken group work to a new level (I hate group work, and even I might like your projects. Girl, that is high praise from me!). You’ve built into the speech contest process in China in ways that have impacted The. Entire. System (are you kidding me?!). You’ve taught leadership using movies and soup. In all of these, you took something that was already in play, you didn’t totally start from scratch, you started with the loaves and fishes given to you and fed the multitudes.
- Love. Begin and End there. Several years ago when I was in a different director position I sent out an email to all those in the program. I ended saying it might sound cheesy but “I love you and I really mean it” (This is not something men in leadership would do and I know it can make some people feel uncomfortable and may look weak.). You were the only person to write back and say, “Amy, never apologize for saying you love someone. I love you too.” The only one. That email went to lots and lots of people. Connie, of all the lessons you have embodied over the years, this is the most important.
In terms of our organization, most obviously you have had massive impact in the teaching arena (see part one of our interview). It would be easy to stop there, but you and I aren’t interested in easy, are we =)? Connie, the greatest contribution made is simply your presence. You are not the kind of person who fits in a simple box. This has been wonderful, infuriating, stretching, challenging in the good way, and pushed those of us who have worked with you to not settle for rote or pat answers. It is to our benefit that you have put up with us when we (at times) made you to feel other or unwelcome. It would have been to our detriment to force you to conform on things that in the end didn’t matter all that much.
Love, begin and end there, eh?
Connie, again I’ll say it, I don’t want you to leave. But I smile at the thought of our savior greeting you with his arms wide open, ready to hug you and whispering in your ear, “Well done good and faithful servant. Well done.”
I’ll be praying for your physical pain and that the Lord will be gracious and allow you to finish the next semester in your beloved Nanchang.
p.s. Connie, when I had the idea for this week, I wanted to bless you because I love you and it’s important to say goodbye (even though it is HARD). Thanks for being game. Truly. I’ve heard from several who haven’t commented publicly how much this series has impacted them.
If you haven’t already, please share with Connie as you feel lead.
In case you missed any of Beginning and Endings Week — if you have a chance, go back and read through the comments. You might want to take your shoes off, once again the Spirit has been at work and humbly this has become holy ground.