As you have made your way around town or have been caught in traffic, you surely have seen the simple bumper sticker or window decal proclaiming “26.2”.
In case you have wondered what it might mean, it is a statement made by someone who has ran in and completed a marathon race – a distance of 26.2 miles.
Whether one is an experienced runner or a novice, completing such is no small feat.
Please allow me a writer’s privilege of giving a shout out to someone who, as of the date of this post, will be completing an educator’s version of a marathon, her own “26”.
I’ll throw in the “point 2” for good measure, she’s earned it!
The one to whom I refer is my wife, Jackie.
Today marks the conclusion of her twenty-six year tenure of teaching at Meadowbrook Christian School.
Jackie’s marathon at Meadowbrook began shortly after our move to the area in 1989.
It is now coming to an end with another move, necessitated by my new employment opportunity borne out of a season of job loss and doing what we need to do as a family.
It is bittersweet in many respects, despite knowing conclusively it is time for us to walk forward into the new adventures which await us as a couple.
Jackie’s employment at Meadowbrook was not sought and came about as a result of our oldest daughter, Jessica, melting down a few days before the start of second grade and crying, “Mommy, I do not want to go back to that school”.
Jessica was enrolled at another local, private school for the period of one month at the end of her first grade year when we moved to the area.
In search of another option precipitated by the last minute change of plans, Jackie visited Meadowbrook as a “parent” and by the end of the visit walked out a “teacher”, also having the credentials to go along with the new offer of employment.
It was a great way to get a job – the job came to her!
It was a busy weekend as she assumed the position of K-4 teacher and had three days to pull together a classroom.
She taught K-4 for the first four or five years of her MCS Marathon.
The school was in its “toddler” stage and along with it came the expected growing pains.
I have no idea how she survived in a classroom filled with twenty or so four year olds. It exhausts me to think about it!
In teaching pre-school children, Jackie came home with many stories on a daily basis.
One of my favorites is permanently etched in my brain cells.
It was well into the school year when a little boy asked to go to the bathroom.
Jackie felt comfortable in letting “little Johnny” (the name is changed to protect the innocent!) make his way across Garver Hall without an escort.
“Johnny” passed through the high school study hall area filled with the “the bigger kids” on his way to the potty.
Moments later a shout emerged from the bathroom, traveling over the listening ears of the high school students, and into the open door of the K-4 classroom – “Mrs. Cross, can you come wipe my butt?”
The study hall gang rolled in laughter! This story is still Numero Uno in my book!
The second runner up was of another little boy who, while going to the bathroom at home the night before, got a little too close to the commode and as the toilet seat descended unexpectedly, it caused him to get snipped where it counts by the toilet seat.
The next day, in all of his innocence, he asked, “Mrs. Cross would you like to see my boo-boo?”
She was getting paid for this kind of entertainment!
About five years into her race, Jackie took on the responsibilities of teaching second grade where she has remained since, with having added the additional responsibility of head lower elementary teacher and mentoring others.
Jackie’s teaching journey has been rewarding and difficult at times.
To our best estimation, she has directly influence well over five hundred students in her classroom and many more around the school.
Recently, one of her colleagues passed along a testimony at a staff meeting of a grateful parent who happens to be a well-known physician in the area.
The parent applauded Meadowbrook for making a difference in his son’s life and singled out “Mrs. Cross as having a huge impact on his son” stating that she “saved his life” and got him pointed in the right direction. The young man is now a successful pastor of a large church.
There was one student whose family was in crisis at Christmas, with the mother dealing with an addiction, the father absent, and three children caught in the middle.
One of the children was in her class and he made his way into our lives on Christmas Day and for a couple of months he lived in our home. Unfortunately, as the years have passed the young man got into trouble and ended his life.
He came into our lives because a teacher named “Mrs. Cross” cared for him and wanted to offer some stability.
Another young boy from an inner city environment was placed in foster care and eventually adopted by friends of ours. His biological mother was an addict and he was full of anger.
Again, she simply cared enough to intervene on a day by day basis in this young man’s life. It was by no means easy. She cried many times during the school year. She persisted to the point of exhaustion but it made the difference for him.
Jackie has juggled the responsibilities of an average classroom size of twenty or so, raising her own kids, and attending to the needs of her Mom toward the end of her life.
I could continue but you get the picture. She did it all well.
Those who teach at Christian schools do not do it for the money – they are called to do so.
Jackie and her fellow teachers sacrifice thousands of dollars per year (compared to teaching elsewhere). Over the course of a long tenure it amounts to tens and hundreds of thousands.
That is not the point. They do so willingly because they want to make a difference in the lives of the children and families they serve.
I came across a few comments on Facebook directed toward her:
“Mrs. Cross, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for being such an amazing teacher! Thank you for every seed that you have planted in the lives of so many children! We will be sad to see you go because we will miss you, but we pray God’s blessings over you and your family as you endeavor on your new adventure! We love you!”
Earlier this evening she sent me this very kind comment, written by Arlie Davis, the Founder and Superintendent of Meadowbrook and the Senior Pastor of Christ Wesleyan Church, the school’s sponsor:
“A special thank you to Mrs. Jackie Cross in your long term dedication to Meadowbrook Christian School, the Friends and Family and the hundreds of children you have touched over the 26 years at Meadowbrook! I have personally benefitted by your teaching as both of my children have had you in class. In asking for one word from both of them to describe Mrs. Cross…they said, “caring” and “kind!”
As is often said, we are rarely remembered for what we taught but more often how we taught. Your kind, caring, pleasant attitude, smile, sweet spirit, and love for Jesus and children have always been apparent. Thank you for sacrificing and serving with such a great spirit over all these years. Your touch on children and their families has made a difference.”
In the early through mid-1990’s I was enrolled in a distance education, MBA program through Regent University. At the center of the program’s universe was the core tenet of “Servant Leadership”.
The foundation of the “Servant Leadership” was built on the following:
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges (He emptied Himself) and He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 5-8 (NLT)
In short, He sacrificed His divine nature to become like us.
In closing, please allow this very grateful and proud husband a few moments with his wife. Thanks for bearing with me as I take license with some personal bragging rights.
“Jackie, you personify what it means to sacrifice oneself. You have embraced your calling and have carefully, lovingly, and willingly laid down your life for many, many others – including me.
You are a gifted educator and although you may not be a runner, you have run this race extremely well!
You have earned the respect of your family, your colleagues, your students, the parents whom you have served, and the administration as well.
You have planted many seeds in the lives you have touched. Some you know about. The fruit is evident.
However, many of those seeds you have planted are unseen and one day you will give an account and hear your Master’s voice say “Well done good and faithful servant!”
I know leaving your current employment is not easy and I wish it were not so in many, many ways.
However, it is at this time this bridge must be crossed. He is the One who holds our future, your future and I can think of no better place to be.
You love teaching, you have cared about others much more than you care about yourself, and in short, you have made a difference!
You have run this race well and you have earned your “26” as you have completed, and won, this race.
I am extremely proud of you!
In the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Glenn Holland is a frustrated music teacher trying to compose a masterpiece in the margins of his life. The masterpiece never was written.
He takes on one role after another, the masterpiece’s completion eluding him.
On his final day as a teacher, his family escorts him toward the exit when he hears music coming from the gymnasium.
In his curiosity, he opens the door to the auditorium to find the room filled with students, teachers, and alumni all gathered to wish him well.
One of the students talks about his quest to write the masterpiece never written and Mr. Holland’s regret at not doing so. She then states, “Mr. Holland, we are your symphony!”
You may not be a music teacher, but your students too can say “Mrs. Cross, we are your symphony!”
As you participate in the graduation ceremony this evening, please take time to reflect on the blessings God has granted you and our family for the honor and privilege of sitting at the table with the larger Meadowbrook family.
God has richly blessed us with many people, who over the years we can call friends at Meadowbrook.
As you walk out the door one final time I invite you to do so with your head held high for fulfilling the calling that has been yours these past twenty six years. You have completed this marathon with distinction, grace, and an ever serving heart. With much love…Bruce
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