A minister friend--aware of ever-growing complications and mounting tonnage at the trough of trivia--often used the expression from the pulpit, in staff meetings and in conversation.

He felt strongly about “keeping the main thing the main thing.” It was a serious challenge made so often that friends often referred to him as the “main thing minister.”

It’s pretty clear--no matter where our focus centers--that his admonition has been largely ignored. We live in a world awash in minors….

*****

In the early going of my 40-year tenure in higher education, brief conversations with college-bound freshmen sometimes led to suggestions about which majors might best be pursued.

It wasn’t “rocket surgery,” and my suggestions were intended to be helpful. Maybe they served to reduce the number of possibilities. A Shakespearean quote--“To thine ownself be true”--was frequently offered as a building block in the foundation of preparation for life.

I’m not often asked these days, and that’s fine with me, ‘cause I’m running short on opinions to give anyone on almost any topic….

*****

About the same time the calendar flipped over to usher in the 21st century, I joked with college-bound youngsters about majors in fields I felt to be in great demand as far as the eye could see.

“If I were you, I’d consider study in postage-and-handling or tattoo removal,” I’d chuckle.

Little did I realize back then that postal service might be replaced by drones and assorted other delivery methods, and that tattoo application rates continue to exceed rates for removals. In such a fluid culture, I continue to reserve--as I have in the past--the right to be wrong…..

*****

No drum rolls or bugles are expected, but I am on the cusp of recommending, yet again, a course of study, mastery of which could assure multiple applications. “Sandbagging” is currently on my radar.

With increased flooding in our land, whatever new techniques with sandbags to keep us “in the dry” should be welcome.

Even more will be needed in Washington, where players in all political parties commonly use “sandbagging techniques.”…

*****

Enough of such rambling.  It’s refreshing in the “real world” to take note when someone’s commitment to others goes unquestioned.

At a recent memorial service, a church sanctuary was virtually filled with former students who lauded their teacher, who taught “life first” and music second. Included among students in Sara Baker’s 37-year tenure was gospel singer Cynthia Clawson, arguably her most recognized graduate.

Cynthia paid vocal tribute, and Gayle Moring, a businessman, provided a stunning revelation he was comfortable sharing only after Mrs. Baker’s death….

*****

His account reminds one of the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus. Folks who saw it remember the intensity of students’ love for their beloved band teacher.

Moring, who provided transportation several times for her 45-minute ride from Granbury to Fort Worth for chemo treatments, was fascinated by her long-guarded secret.

Following graduation from Judson College in the early 1950s, she “signed on” as youth minister and children’s choir director at Scottsboro, AL, First Baptist Church. About the same time, she entered the “Miss Alabama Pageant,” the winner of which advanced to the “Miss America Pageant.”…

*****

“She said the crown was hers,” Moring said. “But another commitment conflicted with the national competition, so the first runner-up advanced.”

Her church youth were excited about summer youth camp with her, and she didn’t let them down.

Instead of millions of Americans applauding her marvelous vocal presentations, a few dozen church youngsters cheered her on. She led them in songs, games and Bible study at camp. After all, she’d made a commitment to do so when she began her church employment. Sara Baker “majored in majors.” She didn’t “sandbag,” and to her “ownself” was true. She was the one-in-a-million teacher her students believed her to be. Though the 89-year-old had been retired for 20 years, former students remembered….

*****

Dr. Don Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: www.speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury. 

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