I had just hung up the phone having said yes to taking yet another high profile job in a high risk environment. I had just agreed to be the founding director of a city-wide education project called Milwaukee Succeeds.
Anyone who knows education in Milwaukee knows that the politics around this topic - in this city - is a blood sport. Parents here have more education options than nearly anywhere else in the country. The competition for students between the public schools, the charter schools and the 27,000 student base voucher schools is intense. And people are usually asked to choose between public education or supporting other options such as voucher or charter schools. But Milwaukee Succeeds aspires to be something different. The intent is to bring all parties to the table and focus on the kids. There is a Who’s – Who of leaders sitting around the table and literally hundreds of nonprofit organizations wondering what this new entity means for them. And I was about to step right into the middle of it all.
So – given the environment I was about to walk into – I prayed a long time before I said yes. And I was pretty convinced that taking this job was as much a calling as it was a job offer. But something strange happened when I accepted this job. I had an intense bout of “buyer’s remorse.” I had this panicky feeling that I had made a bad decision. I worried that I may have just taken on more than I could handle. I sagged down to the couch and began to pray. Hard.
My prayer went something like this: I’m not doubting you, Lord – it’s me that I doubt. I’m not so sure I’m up for this. I’m not so sure it’s right for me. And then I heard it. It was clear and unmistakable. As the Quakers are fond of saying it is that “still small voice.” I prayed to God saying that It is not you I doubt God – it is me. And the answer? The clear – small voice – certain it is God answer was this: “It’s not about you. It’s about me.”
I had to laugh at the humor of God; taking my words and twisting them back on me in such a way that I knew things would be fine. Not to say they wouldn’t be hard – but that they would be fine. After all – It wasn’t about me anymore.
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.