Secret Good Deeds

dr-henry-g-selby-01092012[1]It takes enormous self discipline (and lots of practice) for many of us to do a good deed in secret. There is evidently great benefit in accomplishing such a thing, and philosophers and prophets and even Jesus himself urge us to do just that. The trick, of course, is keeping it a secret. Once the deed is known, the spiritual benefit for the doer evaporates.

Recently I have seen a number of variations on this theme espoused. One is as follows: “You have never really lived until you’ve done something for somebody who can never repay.” I think this idea is why so many people devote their lives to teaching. The money isn’t good. The benefits are minimal. The requirements become more onerous with every passing legislative session. Why do it at all? If the quotation is true, then teaching (for many) is a way of really living.

Generally speaking an elementary teacher who devotes her entire working life to the profession will interact with about 1,000 students for good period of each waking day during a school year. High School teachers may interact for shorter periods of time each day, but the total number of students dramatically increases. By the end of my first year of teaching I had significant time with over 200 young men and women. Some of them are still in touch. Most are not. I get a big kick out of watching “Criminal Minds” and seeing Aaron Hotchener (Thomas Gibson) solve mysteries. Tommy was one of my eleventh grade American literature students a long time ago. Naturally I wonder if I had anything at all to do with his success!

It was American educator Henry Brooks Adams who said that “ a teacher touches eternity.” The idea here is that teachers can never really know the extent of their impact on their students’ lives. By contract they have to deliver the information and then grade the students’ work. By vocation they have to give themselves over to the calling that I believe is the greatest in the world. And make no mistake about it, most of a teacher’s work is done in secret without any hope or expectation of payment.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said that life constantly challenges us with the question, “What are you doing for others?” And in fact, many Americans across the nation use the Martin Luther King, Jr., day as a means of answering that question. I encourage you to do the same. In the meantime, if you are a teacher keep up the good work. No one will ever really know the good work that you do. And that’s good news for you.

“Henry G. Selby, headmaster of All Saints’ Episcopal School in Morristown, is a popular speaker at seminars, conferences, civic events, and professional development meetings. He would be delighted to speak at your next meeting. Please call the school for more information.”

Source: Dr. Henry G. Selby Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School Morristown, TN