The following column was written for a special publication called Flame. The contributors to this monthly online publication are business leaders and coaches in the Lake Norman region. I am fortunate to be a contributor. Below is my column about a woman who used Faith to influence my life – Mrs Trumbell, a Bible Teacher who visited Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill, SC when I was a little boy. This article was written Pre-Pandemic.
A couple of weeks ago, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon which was keynoted by Mark Johnson, North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. He shared what our public schools are doing to get students “Career Ready” as they look at two- or four-year institutions. According to Mark, some students are pursuing apprenticeship programs, while others may elect to go straight into the workforce. The Chamber also used the luncheon to recognize three Lake Norman teachers as the Outstanding Educators of the Year.
As we sat at our tables during lunch, invariably the subject of “Which teacher influenced you the most came up.” I listened intently as several business owners and managers shared their stories, recalling fondly, how this special instructor significantly touched their life.
Leaving the luncheon, someone stopped to ask me, “Was there a special teacher in my life?” To be sure, there are quite a few memorable mentors who have made an indelible impression. But the individual who comes to mind was not an educator in the conventional sense. She wasn’t paid to do her job, yet she had one of the most fulfilling roles any teacher was ever provided.
When I was in third grade, a retired lady would visit our elementary school once a month. She would hand out little red Bibles to the children and spend half an hour telling Bible stories. Our parents had to sign an approval form before we could attend her story telling sessions. Those who did not want to participate could go to the back of the room and take a nap or play with some of the games and puzzles kept there. However, many of us chose to listen to Mrs. Trumbell’s stories of David and Goliath and King Solomon’s Mighty Temple.
Today, fifty years later, children do not have the choice between taking a nap and Bible stories. Religious displays have been banned in public buildings and on municipal grounds. As we approach the Easter Season, you are not likely to see offensive crosses to some in a retail store, but there will be bags of candy and plenty of baskets for the Easter Bunny.
Prayer in school, invocations at sporting events, and references to the Ten Commandments are being challenged by the ACLU and those who are offended at the thought of religion threatening their freedoms. Separation of church and state is their battle cry.
A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting in which the discussion centered on the declining work ethic in today’s employees. The Internet is filled with marketing campaigns by major retailers with strong sexual images targeting millennials and we continue to read heartbreaking stories committed against children by their parents.
The state of our workforce, our families, and our communities tell me that people like Mrs. Trumbell are sorely missed. I agree you cannot legislate morality. However, we as parents, community leaders, and volunteers can work with children and help them understand and appreciate simple values. The education the children receive at home, through the examples set by parents, are stronger than any instruction they can receive at school.
An issue I am very concerned about is the very bitter, divisive way we treat each other in social media. Friends, coworkers, and family members are using adjectives such as racist, sexist or perhaps just ignorant, if someone dare disagree on political policies or candidates. Perhaps a greater concern for me personally, is what impact does that have on our children – the generation which will succeed us tomorrow?
The students educated today are the business and community leaders of tomorrow. I applaud our elected leadership who insist God still has a place in our society. To whom we pray is less important than the fact we should pause each day and give thanks for the blessings from above. We are all so fortunate to live in a nation founded on strong principles and paid for by the blood, toil, and sweat of the generations who came before us. We should never forget the sacrifices made by so many so that we could enjoy the privileges we have today. And let us pause and give thanks for these blessings, while America still has a prayer.
W.E. “Bill” Russell CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce