Today didn't begin like the others. I didn't go to sleep last night in a blunder of excitement, anxiously anticipating the faces of new staff who would equally as anxiously greet me at our welcome breakfast the next day. There weren't last-minute presentations to prepare, or morning coffee to pick up on my way into work. There wasn't an alarm to set extra early. In fact, on this new COVID schedule, the alarm seems to ding a bit late. There is no flurry of activity, ensuring that technology is ready and that campus is pristine for the scavenger hunt we would conduct in our new teams. It's just my same old laptop. Coffee is brewed in my same old kitchen. The only excitement is the mutter of the dogs as the pool guy comes for his swift weekly visit and the neighbors pull their trashcans out to the curb.
What I am learning through this new normal, however, is that there is still magic in these quieter milestones, even though they don't seem as flashy as they once were. The word gimmicky actually (and shamefully) comes to mind. We used to really play up the pomp and circumstance to welcome our new teachers aboard. This typical morning on any year in the past could have been described as overcaffeinated, overembellished, a bit of a circus or even too much, too soon. We wanted to make such a good first impression that we often forgot what our primary purpose truly was. Just connect. Forget the food. (Everyone is too nervous to eat anyway.) No one wants to play handbook Jeopardy (or read a 40 page document of procedures to start their day). They just want to get to know who you are, what you stand for, and that you're going to be there for them every step of the way.
On my morning walk, I listened to our pastor's weekly 7:14 Devo, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. This passage states, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land," (NIV). No better way to start a Monday than by humbling myself and saying a little prayer for the new school year, right? As I was walking, I was even more pleasantly surprised by today's theme, running the marathon of faith. If that isn't a fitting theme for the kick off of the 2020-2021 school year, then I don't know what is. (You can, and should, listen to the full episode here.)
Throughout the podcast, a few themes rang true: