Late yesterday afternoon I received a telephone call from the communications director of the agency where I work. Her call took me by surprise. I guess you could say it had been a day of surprises. First, I was the one who surprised all but one person in the room earlier in the day. The venue was the spring board meeting of the lead agency where I work.
When the communication’s director called, she referred to my morning’s communication with the board as a bombshell. She said, “I didn’t see that coming. No one did”. She then added something closely akin to: “I can promise you after your announcement everything else that had been discussed on the agenda paled in contrast.”
On a positive note she added: “I have to say your announcement was the classiest retirement announcement or notice of resignation that I’ve ever heard. It was extremely well done”. I don’t always get it right and it is refreshing when I do. They say timing is everything. Even if you’re bidding farewell, why not do it with class?
The communication’s director was calling to suggest that if I wanted the other four boards and agencies where I work to get the information directly from me, I should send out a written communication that day. Otherwise, chances were good that they would hear it from someone else.
So what did I communicate to the room full of unsuspecting people? I anticipated you’d want to know that, so I’m sharing most of the script:
“As part of my programs and services report, I’d like to share a personal reflection. When anyone asks, ‘Exactly what is it that you do?’ I generally respond: ‘I do the best I can. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” That drew a laugh, but not nearly as much of a laugh as the board member who interjected the question: “Is it Todd (my boss) that asked you the question.”
I went on to say, “Occasionally, I throw in a few more details. Sometimes I even manage to say, ‘I’m just an old child welfare worker. I discovered a passion for this work a lifetime ago and it still gives me a reason to get out of bed in the mornings’.
Several weeks ago I flew back to Austin from Washington. It was on Friday, March 31. The lady seated to my right was reading a book. The man on my left was watching HGTV. I was the guy in the middle seat with nothing but time on my hands. Consequently, I eventually took out my laptop and began writing my blog for the following day.
At some point, the lady who had been reading engaged me in conversation. She asked: ‘What do you do?’ Before I could respond, she modified her question: ‘Are you a writer?’
I couldn’t help myself. I decided to go with it. I said ‘Yes, thanks for asking.’ I don’t know if she noticed my smile, but giving myself permission to be something other than an old child welfare worker felt good. It felt fresh. It felt new. It felt right.
Technically, my saying I was a writer wasn’t a flagrant misrepresentation of truth. For the past three years I’ve written a daily blog. Some of you read my blog. Others of you have more discriminating taste. Consequently, I think I can say with certainty that I am a writer. I didn’t say that I write well, but I can substantiate that I write often.
The following day was Saturday, April 1. I had put the self-imposed writing assignment off for as long as I could. I needed to write a letter. However this was a tough writing assignment and I struggled with where to start.
Maybe it wasn’t strictly coincidental that the letter was dated on April Fools Day. I couldn’t help but question the writing assignment. Seriously: Is there wisdom in leaving behind a job that I love and friends that I value to begin the next chapter of my life? Part of me said it was a foolish decision. The more cognitive and less emotional part of who I am said to stay the course and write the letter.
Four or five months ago, I read the autobiography of Sandy Koufax. He surprised the world by leaving Major League Baseball while he was still on top of his game. Of course, because of health reasons, he knew the tide would inevitably turn. He made the decision to retire while he was still on top.
Let me say up front, so you won’t think I’m delusional, ‘I’m not sure I’ve ever been on top of my game.’ However, for the past several months I’ve been at a crossroads. I live comfortably and mostly in denial that retirement is age appropriate for me. I even question that I can effectively embrace a less busy and more relaxed lifestyle. Whatever the future holds, it is my hope to continue to contribute something to the field of child welfare services.
Maybe I’m weird. But it is important to me that when folks learn of my resignation that they ask ‘Why’ rather than ‘When’. I love the work. I’ve known from the age of twenty-three that it is my life’s calling. I have had nothing but fun along the way (that may be a little overstated, but you get my drift). It has been an eventful and fulfilling adventure. I will always cherish the memories and the friendships will continue.
Consequently, I let Todd (my boss) know at the beginning of April, three weeks ago, that effective June 1, I’d like to begin exhausting my annual leave without the intent of re-establishing fulltime employment with the agency.
They say timing is everything and I couldn’t have picked a worse time to plan my departure. Consequently, Todd and I are still deliberating how I keep one foot in the door while the other foot is elsewhere.
I have been asked by the board of the Coalition of Residential Excellence in Washington D.C. to take on a leadership role with that agency as the Executive Director. Consequently that opportunity impacted the timetable for my making a decision. Most of my work will take place from home, but some travel to Washington and elsewhere will be required. I’ve always enjoyed advocacy related to child-welfare legislation, so the opportunity seems like a good fit. There is also a critical need to rebuild the organization, and some feel my gift of gab and personality are a good fit.
I have been honored to be associated with the Children at Heart Ministries’ family and the privilege of serving as part of the team. I’ve worked side by side with some of the most capable, competent and compassionate people that I’ve ever known. That is part of the reason that the work has been so meaningfully enjoyable.
In addition, the board members with each agency for whom I’ve worked have been incredibly supportive and committed to the cause and mission of the ministry. God’s hand has clearly been evident across the family of ministries. This ministry will always be at the top of the leaderboard in places where I served”.
The board meeting was followed by many well wishes and expressions of gratitude for the time I’ve shared with the agency.
So, I guess you could say: “The cat is out of the bag”. After the broadcast communication I transmitted electronically last night, all of the boards and staff members with whom I work now know the news. One of the executive directors that was at the meeting yesterday morning responded to my email: “It did not seem real until I got your email. I consider it an honor to have worked for you and to call you my friend. I look forward to working with you in future advocacy endeavors”.
All My Best!