Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Miss Markhams of Life

I started a new book this week, "How Starbucks Saved My Life." It is an extraordinary story, written by Michael Gates Gill, that speaks of one person's remarkable success, downward spiral, and then rediscovery as he becomes an employee (Partner is what Starbucks calls it) at Starbucks. I am not even halfway through the book, and I have already caught glimpses of my life and the life of the church in Gill's writing.

On page 63, Gill tells the story of Miss Markham, an elementary school teacher who told Gill who he really was.

"'I have made a decision, she said. 'You, Michael,' she continued, as though making a formal, public statement, 'are destined for greatness. I don't care what you do, or what you don't do. I don't care if you go to some prestigious college, or don't go. I just know: You are great.'

She sat back, dropping my hands, smiling at me.

I did not know what to say. I really didn't understand her point.

She leaned forward and spoke again. 'I almost never do this,' she sad, 'but once every few years I see some young person I feel has exceptional qualities. I want you to know that you are worthy. You. Not just what you do.'"

At church on Sunday, we started a new study in the 9:45 Sunday School class about spiritual gifts. As a result, I have been thinking about my gifts more this week. And, I have been especially thinking about the people who have named my gifts for me, giving me the courage to claim my gifts. I have thought about the Miss Markhams in my life - the people who have told me I am great - not for what I do but for who I am.

This morning, I give thanks for these individuals. I give thanks for Harold Bossaller, the person who told me I was a great public speaker as my FFA advisor in High School. I give thanks for Kathy Krafka Harkema, my first real boss who told me I was dynamic and capable as my work supervisor at the National Suffolk Sheep Association. I give thanks for my mother who always told me I was beautiful even when I was horribly overweight with acne all over my face. I give thanks for Hugh Cameron, my first field education supervisor at Benson Memorial UMC in Raleigh who told me I was a gifted pastoral leader. I give thanks for David Argo who told me I could be a lay leader for a church even though I was not yet 25 and some 10 years later told me that I had what it took to bring a declining church to life again. I give thanks for my Grandma Ivy who always told me how special I am. I give thanks for Wannie Hardin who told me I was one of the most gifted young pastors he had ever worked with. I give thanks for the members of First UMC in Hendersonville, NC who continued to name my gifts for me, entrusting me with so much, as their pastor in 2000-01. I give thanks for the students at Duke Divinity School who told me what a difference I had made in their admission process.

These people - all of these people - are the great cloud of witnesses that surround me each day. These people are the reason I had even ten percent of the courage needed to return to Washington and be a pastor. These voices are the ones I listen for when the voices around me seem to be filled with critique instead of encouragement. These faces are the ones I see smiling at me when others disagree with me. These people are the reason I am Reverend Donna Claycomb Sokol - a child of God trying hard to be faithful as the pastor of Mount Vernon Place.

Thanks be to God for the Miss Markhams of life. Who are your Miss Markhams?


kel said...

the main person i think of is my english professor mr weathers. he told me i could write.

cheryl said...

In thinking through this question, I've realized that I don't think I've really had any (?) Ms. Markhams, which made me think that WE need to make sure we are being Ms. Markhams to OTHERS as much as possible!

The main one I can think of is my high school boyfriend's mother, who really encouraged me about going to a 4 year college rather than community college where my parents wanted me to go. I really appreciated her advice and support. Thanks, Mrs. Cadoff!

Jerry Roberson said...

One person who stands-out in my mind above the rest was my elementary school music/speech teacher, Mrs Frances Blazer.

She was very old-school (retired the year after I graduated sixth grade), but she was also a Christian who wasn't afraid to gracefully let it be known in that public school setting.

Many of the things I learned beyond the "three Rs" were things that she taught our class .... how to read music, how to sing, how to speak in front of a group, parliamentary procedure, basics of American history, how to bring-out our creativity, etc. She so loved her kids, though many of my classmates saw a hard-nosed exterior. She helped me, and countless others, understand how artistic expression and leadership qualities are natural human traits, and that we should be bold to eximplify those traits. She helped me see that I needed to use my own God-given skills for the encouragement of others. All this at the young age range of 7 to 12.

Mrs Blazer passed-away within the past ten years. She was a longtime member of Boston Avenue UMC in Tulsa. To this day, she remains a type of "Ms Markham" to me.

Kristine said...

My Ms. Markhams:
1. Mrs. Laramy(1st grade at Newhall Elementary school) and Dr. Gibson (SDSU graduate program), taught me how to teach with kindness and patience
2. I can't remember her name, but a coordinator who helped me be more outgoing (summer in 3rd grade at the Boys and Girls Club in Newhall)
3. Mama and Mom who show me how to be pillars for their family and how to love and enjoy life (each and every day)