My most effective speech ever was one of which I am no longer proud.
Our teachers’ union in Bloomington, Illinois, had tried to negotiate with the new superintendent all summer, but he was like a stone wall—and not in the good sense of Stonewall Jackson. He didn’t understand the concept of negotiation, of give and take, of compromise.
Finally, our president, in exasperation, asked us to strike. I was our school’s representative, and it fell to me to get as many teachers as possible to quit teaching to make our point during a very hot September.
He had me all stirred up and I crafted my own speech carefully. I’d recently heard a quotation that I loved and used, looking each teacher in the eye. At the end of giving the reasons why we should strike, I read, “On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of decision, sat down to wait, and waiting died,” a quote by Sam Ewing, whoever he is or was.
Ours was the only building that had 100% participation in the strike. I was thrilled. I had influence!
But for what? After a week, a judge ordered us back to work. We had gained nothing; we had lost a week’s pay—no small matter for struggling teachers.
Even at the time—1971—I had doubts. Now I have more.
I’d like to think I’m now much more selective in the causes I champion, but it’s a constant battle. So many good causes are out there, just waiting for supporters.
So I pick carefully, because the cause I most want to champion is for people to believe in Jesus Christ and serve him. At the time, I damaged my own credibility with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Another teacher at our congregation did not strike; he seemed to look at me with disapproval–and perhaps disappointment. A sister tore into me and I let her have it right back. It was not my finest hour.
Priorities are so difficult! But one thing I’ve learned is that decisions covered in earnest prayer are wise ones. It’s the ones we jump into without praying that come back to embarrass or distress us.
Let’s just remember always to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Keep praying. We can’t go wrong with prayer.