My moment to impress the new boss came in June when I had the opportunity to have my first one-on-one meeting with Dr. Emberton.
A bit nervous, I decided to try a little sarcastic humor to break the ice. I asked our new president if she had seen the “adopt a flowerbed” email that had recently been sent out by the business office. (You see, faculty and staff had been encouraged by the business office to volunteer to weed and de-trash a flower bed of our choice.) I guess I thought the president would laugh a little with me about the sorry state of an institution that needs to ask highly educated people to weed flower beds.
Dr. Emberton responded with a seemingly offhand comment about how someone in the business office might have seen her pulling weeds out of flower beds around campus. I gulped. She said it casually, but I got the point. We quickly moved on to other topics.
Now I am, in fact, kind of a yard freak. I pull weeds daily in my yard and flowerbeds. I’m at war with a particularly invasive species of thistle. I have a sequence of mowing that includes north-south, east-west and two diagonal patterns. I edge my sidewalks so that my yard looks like it has a flat top. It’s a secret arena of pride that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to overcome.
I don’t really know if Dr. Emberton is a weed freak, or if it is simply that her fresh set of eyes sees things that we had become blind to – like weeds, clutter, and trash. How often in past years had I walked by such things and either not seen them or, worse yet, saw them and assumed that someone else would take responsibility?
The message is getting across. I’ve seen Jesse Brown pulling bottles and cans out of bushes at the entrance to Wright Hall. I’ve seen the advancement office staff sprucing up the front of the Ad Annex. I’ve seen Dr. Doughty pulling weeds down by the campus clock. And each time, I’ve felt the same twinge of shame that I felt in Dr. Emberton’s office in June.The other day, I saw a few weeds cowering under some bushes in a flower bed near the mailbox on Campus Street. I stopped, and I engaged in mortal combat with the enemy – a weed, or was it something within myself? I invested a minute – maybe two. Now, interestingly, when I pass that little patch of bushes, it feels, in a way, like it’s my own yard. Maybe that’s the point. And maybe that’s how new leaders influence ethos.
Luke Fetters, Ed.D., is a professor of ministry and missions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column reflects the views of the writer only.