Byproduct (n) – an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else.
This past weekend, our church did a dinner theater. Our church does a dinner theater every year, and it is a simple little fundraiser for our students to raise money to pay for church camp in the summer. Since I teach the seniors at our church, I always help to some degree. Every year the students come up with a bunch of silly fun things that are loosely tied together to create an entertaining show, but this year, we added a little more structure, a lot more work, and tried to make it something bigger than we have ever done before… we made a murder mystery.
A few adults and I started working on an idea for a murder mystery in October, and around December, we had the rough outline of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. I spent a few days pounding on it, and before long we had a 41 page script. In January, I spoke to the students and requested nine brave souls to be the heavy lifters in our church play. From that point on, every Sunday for two hours a day, behind closed doors, nine students and I worked on bringing our play to life. Over the past month, we have had two five-hour practices to make sure we get it right. In our play, we had a “shell-game” of drinks, and we had color-coded cups and a seven-chart diagram to make sure we got that part perfect (to make the staged murder accurate with the poison being added to the right drink). The week of, we met at the church at 6:30 am and practiced. Then the performances came, and for almost two days straight we were incarcerated with one another, making sure everything was right and clean.
The performances went well, the church was entertained, and we raised a record amount for the students to go to camp.
At the end of the last show, my nine students, six of which are seniors, pulled me up and gave me a huge basket of stuff I probably shouldn’t have (Mt. Dew, chips, candy, and movies) and gave me a card. What they wrote is between them and I, but all you need to know is I was humbled… super humbled.
In the days following, my emotions have been all over the place. With the realization that the play was over and it was one of the last things that I would be doing with my students (some of which have been a huge part of my life for the past three years), I’ve been lamenting the fact that these students that have meant so much to me will be moving on in a few short months. It felt like ripping off a Band-aid. My goal was to put on a great church play that had a few Biblical truths in it (Product), but I wasn’t intending to get so attached to these students… Please don’t misunderstand. I loved and cared about them before, but I had no idea how much that would grow through this show.
Sitting in church tonight, I was still pretty depressed about things. All I could think about is how special these kids are to me and how I was soon to be a part of their past. I even got a head start on feeling bad about my own children moving on, and my oldest is just eight! Afterwards, one of my nine students came up to me and thanked me for everything once again. What I told her was definitely not my words but God’s (I think it was a Romans 8:26 kind of moment):
“I started teaching youth to make a difference in your lives. I didn’t have any idea it would make a difference in my own life.”
After talking to her, I felt a lot better. Even if God takes these students to far and distant places where I will never see them again, I realized that I am the beneficiary of being a part of their lives, not the other way around. I remembered that when you rip off a Band-aid, a little of your skin goes with the Band-aid, but what I forgot was a little bit of the Band-aid stays with you. Not just these kids, but all the students I have had in my six years of teaching have blessed me so much, and I would not give up the momentary sorrow I feel right now and not have the amazing blessing I have received.
The most important investment you can make is in people.
Be in the business of people. It’s hard work. There are times it is frustrating. There are times when it isn’t fun. Sometimes (like now for me) it hurts. It takes a lot of time and more than a passing smile in the hall when you see someone, but there is nothing more important in the Kingdom of God (other than God Himself) than people.
People sometimes wonder why Beth and I got so many kids when we adopted. They bless us so much. They are my family. They are my investment. I can’t imagine life without them or without the blessings I have received by having them.
As for Miranda, Blake, Abby, Nick, Claire, Karah, Anna, Abel, and Tyler – Go out and change the world. When you’re done, look me up when you get to heaven. I’ll be saving you guys a seat in my section when you get there! I can’t wait to spend eternity with you.
At the dinnermesa,