SPIRITS, TAMALES, & EXOTIC LIZARDS

On an education blog called LeaderTalk, Peter Reilley (whose spells his last name incorrectly) asked:

Is there a connection between our own spiritual growth and our work? Most people keep them separate. It’s pretty common to feel that ‘work is work’ and anything spiritual doesn’t belong in our professional lives. I know that this is a delicate conversation; but I am convinced it’s worth having.  In fact, many organizations are developing a contrary view of what it is to be a working professional and an effective leader.

I have always been compelled by the notion of spiritual leadership so I read his post.  Then I responded with a quote from “The Lights of El Milagro”:

El Milagro is a search for harmony. Where there is no struggle for power or control; where there is no infighting, backstabbing, or one-upmanship. No treachery. No hierarchy of authority. Where the rewards of the journey are abundant…and there is plenty for everyone.
And most importantly, where our work is defined by what we do for others and how we serve children.

We learned that as we strike our arc across the skyline, we leave an unintentional spiritual trail that both lights and compels us. The more our voices rise in unison on behalf of children, on behalf of El Milagro, the more we call upon the infinite power of the universe to lead us to some yet-undiscovered treasure that is the “way”.

Then somebody named “tft” (God bless him) said:

I think you are treading on dangerous territory when you start to infuse the personal/spiritual into the workplace. As and atheist, Fred’s praying before school board meetings scares the hell out of me. I think spirituality is best left OUT of the workplace, especially in light of the separation-of-church-and-state thing. Leaders should not impose, or give import, to the spirit world, as some of us believe there isn’t one, and the evidence is on our side (not to mention the law)

To which I responded…

Hey tft (et al.):

Here is an alternative take on what spirituality in the workplace is about: Actually, when I talk and write about it, it has nothing to do with religion nor anything necessarily to do with God. I hear you. Lots of people sensitive about that. But on my campus… there is a spiritual force.

The tides rise and fall by the force of energy. Your beagle leaps off the couch and lands on the floor as a function of gravity. And when the twin towers fell we all felt a sudden and inexplicable sense of connection. As a human community.

When visitors come to my campus they feel something that they can’t explain: energy…gravity…community…

My teachers, for example, conduct home visits with 100% of their students at the beginning of the school year for no other reason than to create relationships with their children and their families. Without compensation. It takes weeks to get to all of the homes and they have to eat a ton of home-made tamales and meet dogs and little sisters and exotic lizards. But when they are done… they never look at their class in the same way again… and parents don’t perceive their teachers in the same way again either.

Our charter mission exists to engender academic achievement in a community unaccustomed to academic excellence. In fact to achieve our mission we have to overcome the adverse effects of poverty on learning. On this campus there is a deep, deep commitment to children– a passion, an urgency. Our kids feel it too. Our teachers will do anything to prove that children at a low income, Title I school on the border with Mexico can compete with anybody in the nation.

You can call it “school spirit” if that makes you feel more at ease. But make no mistake… there is an energy here that comes from somewhere in the universe and we think it is lifting kids. Like the tides. You can’t trivialize it. You can’t politicize it. And you can’t help but feel it.

And by the way, I pray on my way into work every day. I’m a principal. My life has been blessed in ways I don’t deserve. On the chance that there is a spiritual force called “God”, I don’t want to be the beneficiary of a kindness I neglected to recognize. And on the chance that there is a spiritual force called “God” (and that this God created the very children we are trying to rescue from extraordinarily difficult life circumstances)– I’m gonna ask for help.

It’s the least I can do to honor the work of teachers and children who scramble every day to overcome near insurmountable odds.

                       

To which if “tft” had a cogent response (and I’m guessing he did)– he kept it to himself.  Amen.

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