This is a big day for our family. Today my spouse, Rod, retires after working as an educator for the last 46 years. I’ve been married to him for all of those years. Education, for Rod, is a vocation, something he was called to do. In true Rod fashion, he continued to live into that calling up until the final click of his computer mouse. Like high school and college graduates in this season of COVID, this was not the way the last day of school was expected to end. But as this season has taught us, church isn’t limited to church buildings, and neither is education limited to school buildings.
I’m proud of his commitment to underprivileged children and people of color in his 38 years at Milton Hershey and Kamehameha. But I am prouder still of his integrity, of his commitment to building people, and to modeling the practice of the Leader as Servant each step of the way. Those values have impacted many, most of all our children, our grandchildren, and me.
One of those impact stories is the result of a random Uber ride we caught from the Charlotte airport about 18 months ago. Rod and I began to make small talk with the driver, who was driving Uber as a retirement gig. He told us he grew up and PA and went to high school in Hershey. Our sons graduated from Hershey High (a school with little racial diversity), and Rod worked at Milton Hershey School (with lots of racial diversity since 1974). Based on appearance, Rod asked, “Did you graduate from Milton Hershey School? What’s your name?” We almost had a wreck and heart attack on our hands at the same time, as the driver asked, “Are you Coach Chamberlain?” The driver had been one of Rod’s wrestlers, and when on to be a police officer in Philadelphia and then Baltimore. He said, “I still remember something about you that has stuck with me all these years. You never lost your cool. In all of my time on the police force, I never fired my gun in the line of duty because I’d think of you. I never lost my cool.” That might be something we all need to remember.
One of my favorite writers, John O’Donohue, wrote “A Blessing for Retirement”, in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. I have copied it below, for Rod, and all of us in this liminal time of transition.
This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.
You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let your heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.
Have the courage for a new approach to time;
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.
Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.
May it be so for Rod, and for each of us, as we stand on this shore of new invitation. ~ Anne