I Don’t Have to Be Doing This

August 21, 2009

Have you ever left everything behind?

It’s probably a whole lot harder if you have a lot to leave behind.

This week, school started up and at our district’s convocation we got a special guest speaker. You might be familiar with H&R Block, the tax prep company. It’s based in Kansas City and has 22 million customers, so they’re doing all right. It was founded by two brothers, Henry and Richard Bloch. I guess they thought ‘Block’ was catchier than ‘Bloch.’

One of the sons, Thomas Bloch came to talk to the teachers of our district. What on earth does the heir to a tax service company have to do with education?

Actually, he already inherited the company. He started as a tax preparer out of college, and worked his way up the ladder. Eventually, he was CEO of the company. I’m sure he had a very nice office to go with the million dollar bankroll he was taking home. I imagine home for him was a ten-story yacht with a bowling alley, called the S.S. I’m on a Boat. Hey, I don’t know how CEOs live.

Anyway, about the place in his life where a guy couldn’t hire any more people to kiss his butt, Tom decided his life was empty. He decided that a million dollar bankroll wasn’t all he was born to accomplish.

So he decided to teach junior high algebra to inner-city underachievers.

Really? Teach? Algebra? Inner-city? Doesn’t make sense. In his own words, he went from a place loaded with cash and respect to a place that afforded absolutely none of either. Now you may know that the Kansas City school district is notoriously bad. So a rich white guy who actually expected effort and success from his students was still a sideshow. He was actually laughed at by parents when he told them their children were failing. They laughed in the face of the former CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. He was of no consequence to them.

He realized that he spent only half his time teaching algebra to his algebra students. The rest of the time was spent teaching character, citizenship or morality. That’s off the record, because every politically correct person knows a teacher’s job is to teach academics, not character…right?

Then he decided he needed to take it one step further. He was friends with Barnett Helzberg of the jewelry store chain, also based in Kansas City. Barnett had sold his company and was looking for a new challenge, and presumably a large gaping money-pit to wildly throw his cash into, never to be seen again.

So they opened a school. They felt the name University Academy was pretentious enough to work, so they went with that.

The first couple of years were a disaster as students came in, realized the standards were abnormally high for the inner-city, and moved on. Eventually the school was moved, expanded to include all the grades, and students started sticking around and graduating.

Tom admitted that his sacrifice was easy financially. There are plenty of people who struggle far more to make the change he did. He had made his money. Even with all the money he’s poured down the drain on a school, his family’s lifestyle hasn’t suffered. But still, I have to wonder how many days he thought to himself, while getting disrespected to his face by children and their parents, “I don’t have to be doing this.”

I think that’s what ministry is all about. At some point, probably most ministers think, “I don’t have to be doing this.” Then they realize that, yes, they do. Because it’s a calling.

I don’t know if Tom is a Christian, but he could be. And he made a decision that makes a great story. Have you ever known anyone like that, who ‘threw it all away’ to do something great? Maybe you’re that person that people talk about. What’s your story?

Oh, and you’re probably wondering who won our big giveaway! Well, you’ll have to come back at 3 pm central time to find out! The suspense is killing me!