(Please note some self-directed, tongue-in-cheek sarcasm early on in this post.)
I had been Sophomore Class President, Junior Class President and Student Body Vice-President in my first two years at the university I attended. So, with all this experience (and my given likability), it stood to reason in my fairly self-absorbed mind that I would be overwhelmingly elected when I ran for Student Body President in the spring semester of 1994.
Add to this factor that it was the second time I had run for Student Body President… and this was a lock, right? I mean, surely my fellow-students would see my incredible leadership ability… along with all the fun I proposed in my very well-crafted campaign speech… and feel deeply compelled to vote in my favor.
Sadly, they could not see then what a blessing I would be to them and to the University. The did not value my skills as an orator and my ability to produce a great atmosphere on campus which all could enjoy. They lacked the foresight to see that I was created to lead the masses. And yes, believe it or not, I lost the election…. again.
And we all know that elections have consequences. So like any rejected average Joe in a superhero movie, I determined that, if my talents and skill set were not appreciated for the good I could do, then I would utilize them for wreaking wide-spread havoc across the campus the following year. I told my roommate that I was going to pull so many pranks and cause so much trouble the next school year that anytime something went wrong across the campus, the administration would just say, “Call Allen in again… we know it’s him.”
(Yes, I was immature. No, I am not proud of that moment in my life. Yes, I realize that I probably would not have gone through with all that. No, I did not realize that I was letting my emotions due to rejection get the best of me.)
Not long after that conversation with my roommate… yeah, I’m pretty sure he warned someone that I was unstable at that moment in life… my Dorm Pastor sent for me to come to his office.
You’d have to know Tom Hill to garner the proper sense of dread connected with being beckoned to his office. Tom was a Vietnam vet who had been wounded in action. He was missing one eye… there were chunks missing in one arm and part of his abdomen from shrapnel… and he was missing part of his index finger on one hand. (Granted, that last injury came from a power saw during his construction years and not from his time in the military. But it added to his persona.). Tom may have been shorter than my 5’8″ stature and nearly twice my 135 lbs, but he was strong as an ox and quick as a gazelle. So, there was a certain amount of well-deserved awe and healthy respect which went along with a visit to his office.
To be truthful as always, I was surprised because I had not even done anything wrong yet. I was just planning wrong… which added to wondering how much more there was to this man.
So I was plenty surprised when, upon entering his office, he welcomed me warmly and told me a story. He took a plaque off the wall and told me to read it. It read, “1st Runner Up, Mr. Southwestern.” (This was the popularity contest at the university held each year to recognize the guy and girl who best represented the school’s ideals.). I handed it back, and he replaced it on the wall. Then he handed me another plaque and asked me to read it. I thought it a little odd, but I obliged… because you didn’t say “no” to Tom Hill. Same thing… “1st Runner Up.”
Tom proceeded to tell me the story of how he, too, had not been selected by his peers. He told of how it stung. He told of how frustrating it was to him. He let me know that he could relate to how I was feeling.
And then he began to encourage me, letting me know that there was life after rejection. He went on to tell me all that he had been able to accomplish. He pointed out that the Lord had a good plan for him… and for me.
That’s when the conversation shifted, and Tom asked me if I would be willing to serve as a resident assistant on one of the halls in the guys dorm in which I resided and which he oversaw. I was floored. I couldn’t believe that someone saw something in me that I believed was there, but I thought apparently others did not.
When he had explained what the role entailed and I agreed to accept the assignment, he really blew me away. He said that he would like for me to serve as the assistant dorm director and oversee the whole team of resident assistants… to help him lead the whole dorm. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. He valued me. He trusted me. He saw potential in me. And he offered me the opportunity to influence… to do good works.
Interesting little side note… When Tom informed the committee who approved the selections for RA’s and assistant dorm directors that he had selected me as his choice for right-hand man, they literally laughed out loud at him and asked him if he was kidding. I know that because he told me about it in a subsequent meeting. He told me that he went to bat for me, telling them what he saw in me. Of course, he followed that up with a wheezing, “You’d better not let me down, son.” And I knew he was serious.
Over that summer, I spent 10 weeks serving at a summer church camp and then went on a 10-day missions trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. God did a lot of work in me over that summer. By the time I got back to the university the next fall for RA in-service, I was a changed young man. I was focused on my walk with God and the call He had placed on my life.
During that year as RA and assistant dorm director, God continued to work in my life and show me how He had good plans for me to do good works just like Ephesians 2:10 says. He pointed out to me that He intended for me to lovingly lead and equip people to do the good works He has for them as well. And so began the journey which brought me to my life purpose of loving and encouraging people, offering grace and hope.
I didn’t let Tom down that year. I served to the best of my abilities. And from there, ministry took on a whole new life for me.
But the genesis of that transformation… at least in my opinion… came when one Tom Hill decided he would encourage me… would speak to me about the potential he saw in me to do good… would believe in me… would go to bat for me when others laughed at me.
(So, thanks, Tom Hill! Thank you for believing in me and trusting me. Thank you for encouraging me and, in so doing, creating another encourager.)
Whose genesis of transformation are you a part of? Who are you breathing life into? Who are you encouraging? Who are you going to bat for? Who are you believing in and trusting to step up? Who are you telling that you see potential in them?
Realize this… You have the ability to shape someone’s future. You have the opportunity to help propel them toward their destiny. You can help them discover their purpose on this planet. But you might have to take a chance on them. And you have to say these things to them so that they know someone believes in them, even if they think others have rejected them.
And if you will do this… though few may ever know about it… you will have impacted many people’s lives forever!