One of the themes of jubilación is this:
Gather it up. Give it away.
When your vocation is learning and teaching, it’s good to gather up mentors and give them away.
Here’s a mentor of mine:
Christopher Dock (c.1698-1771) was a remarkable Mennonite schoolmaster whose book,
School Management, was the first educational philosophy and advice manual written in the colonies before the Revolutionary War. Dock’s innovation was in stressing gentleness rather than force in the classroom.
He made beautiful illuminated manuscripts called “fractur” and gave them as rewards to students who were diligent.
What makes Christopher Dock my mentor, however, is not his book nor his fractur.
Instead, I love the image above and the story behind it.
I first saw the oil version of the painting of Christopher Dock above when I was a college student fifty years ago.
I was told that the venerable schoolmaster died in the classroom
on his knees at prayer.
So the image above portrays his last earthly act.
The viewer knows the master is dying. But the master just continues his daily practice.
The paper in front of him on his desk in the painting is, I believe, his student roster.
Since first seeing this image and hearing the story,
I’ve prayed over many class rosters.
The class I’m teaching now feels a little different, however.
It might be the last class I teach to undergraduates.
And so, I have made my own student roster in my journal, and I’ve memorized the names.
As I walk across campus, I pray for each student in my class.
There are only eleven of them. Just a few more than the colors of the rainbow: ROYGBIV.
I’ve promised them that my “office hours” won’t end after this semester.
If they need me, I am here for them until I am no more.
Christopher Dock’s greatest gift as my mentor was to give me a visual image
of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
A life consecrated in service to God, the truth, and others.
Dock’s legacy lives on in the school named for him in eastern Pennsylvania.
It lives on for the student in my class who is now praying over her own student roster after seeing this image in our class.
It lives on because a Mennonite schoolmaster lived the idea of “satyagraha” without knowing the name.
Another one of my mentors, Mary Eleanor Bender, professor of French at Goshen College, was named here last week by a former student from India as Mennonite embodiment of the concept of satyagraha.
I’ll never forget the image Mary offered forty years ago in a speech about mystery.
“When I enter the classroom,” she said, “I pause under the threshold for a few seconds
just to remind myself that I am entering sacred space.”
Who are your mentors? How are you gathering them up and giving them away?