How will you serve?

The best question I’ve ever been asked arrived when I was living by the ocean in Santa Cruz, CA. I was finished with grad school and prepping to job hunt. My husband had been working at a school just 3 blocks from our 450 sq. ft. home. We biked everywhere. I had been to his school’s potlucks and teacher gatherings, and I loved their design-thinking approach to learning.

One June day, the principal cornered me, “Julie, I would like you to work here. We are open to the role you would play; how would you like to serve?”. To know me, you know this was my best gift. I could get creative, share a proposal, have the freedom to create a detailed roadmap, all the while knowing I was believed in.

I came back to Sylvie with grand plans. “I want to be the Special Programs Director. I want to create a grant-funded 5000 sq. ft. garden with the community of parents this summer, and in the fall, I want to teach outdoor science to every student weekly, grades K-6. Beyond that, I want to care-take the garden, run student council, run the library (it was a tiny school), and if that’s not enough, I can fill in where the needs are.”

With her “What are we waiting for?” attitude, my inspiration was at its peak. Some of my greatest memories were kids biting the heads off broccoli right from the plant, the “garden lunch club,” and the meal the children grew and served their parents, complete with sliced kohlrabi & nasturtium flowers.

My other roles became running a 4th grade math group and teaching PE for kindergarten. This cocktail of roles is not everyone’s dream job. But it was mine. I am forever grateful for that that question that sparked my commitment to serve, and serve in the way of my choosing.

Revisiting Santa Cruz 15 years later, the saplings we planted during “tree ceremonies” for each grade had grown to 30 feet tall. I had practically forgotten about those trees.

Let us all remember that the seeds we plant today may grow beyond our wildest imaginings.

With gratitude, Julie


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