A Profitable Investment Strategy
Erwin Wullschleger, Jr. (Mr. W, I'll call him). You probably don't know him, but hearing the name, it sort of sticks with you. Speaking of sticking with you, Mr. W continues to stick in my mind even though the last time I saw him was in 1973.
It was a sunny school day in junior high school. I remember vividly being called out of class that afternoon and asked to take a walk with my English teacher, Mr. W. I wasn't sure what this was all about, but it was okay with me, because I trusted this teacher. He proceeded, as we strolled the school grounds, to express his concern that my grades had dropped recently and I didn't seem to be putting forth my usual effort or engagement in class. All of the teachers had noticed it. As he shared and asked for my feedback about what I thought was at the heart of the problem, I felt safe and knew that I could be open and honest with Mr. W. I began to open up and tell him that things were tough at home. My parents had not been getting along very well and I was upset about how things were going. I found it hard to concentrate on my homework and classwork because of the sadness and fear that was constantly on my mind. I wasn't neglected at home and I was provided a safe and supportive environment. Family members knew what was going on and provided support and comfort in ways that they could. However, the emotional impact of what was happening felt overwhelming. That day, walking with my junior high English teacher made a difference. It helped me to know that he and other teachers would be supportive and take measures to help support my functioning at school. It didn't change what was happening in my life, but it added one more aspect of support to better equip me to cope and keep moving forward. It is important to note, however, that his gesture was not the beginning of Mr. W's impact upon my life, it was the culmination. There was a reason that he could have that important conversation with me that day.
Rewind almost two years to the beginning of 7th grade. Mr. W was a new teacher at our school. He came to our small southern town from Cleveland, Ohio. Being from the north, his accent and mannerisms were a little different from that to which I was accustomed. He was firm with classroom control, but, as I recall, he was creative and liked to provide unique learning opportunities. Other teachers did this too. But there was something different about Mr. W. He was also very open about his interest in impacting kids outside the walls of King Springs School.
It wasn't long into that 7th grade year that Mr. W took notice of me. He seemed to believe that I had promise beyond the average junior higher. I'm not sure what he saw in me...and he did not limit this to me...but the way he engaged with me, and the things he told me, sent the message that I had great potential and could achieve significant things in my life. I won't take the time to detail all of the ways he invested in me, but they were significant and many. Just let me summarize...he encouraged me to participate in an oratorical competition and coached me two years in a row. I won district 2nd place and 1st place respectively in that contest. He asked me to join an effort to create a community service organization we called Group Action Project (GAP) in which we secured an empty house in a poor neighborhood and hosted fun activities, provided snacks and offered tutoring to children of the area each Saturday morning. He took me to a local youth camp to introduce me to the facility and dream about how it may be used to further the work with the underprivileged youth. He invited me and a girl from our class to come to his home and have dinner with him and his wife...to help us develop social skills in a more formal setting. You see, that stroll on the school grounds in 1973 wasn't the first time that Mr. W and I had a serious conversation. He had spent time intentionally investing in me over months, that had earned him the right to speak into a tough situation.
It has been a long time since I last saw Mr. W as I lost track of him and he has since passed away. However, because of his intentional investment in a naïve, simple junior high student, his impact and legacy have been lasting. I'm quite sure he probably had similar influence in many lives over the years. I can tell you, however, his investment in me yielded good returns. Since then, others have made investments as well...an aunt and uncle, Rosella and Oscar Huffman, Pastor Tommy Maines, Theater Professor Joe Jones, Education Professor Dr. Ken Riggs, Music Professor Vernon Whaley and entrepreneur John Saddington. Each of these, and others whom space does not allow me to mention, have made investments in my life that have reaped great returns. For their investments, I am deeply indebted. Perhaps that is why I have taken seriously the opportunities that God has given me to invest in the lives of others. No matter how I have lived out my purpose of making a difference in the lives of others, through sharing the good news of Jesus, it has been most effective when I am engaging in an incarnational ministry relationship with another person. This may have been with a student, working with a youth or college-aged person through student/campus ministry, counseling in the local church or agency, life coaching, accountability relationships, or doing therapy with foster kids. It all involves investment.
Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
2 Timothy 2:1-2
Why Personal Investment in People is a Profitable Strategy
We hear much in the media and marketing about investing for our future...for retirement. There are many options available for anyone to grow their financial wealth in preparation for those later years. Whether we consider individual stocks, mutual funds, 401k, Roth IRA, employer retirement plans, or even cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, it can all be rather confusing and sometimes risky. Perhaps risk is always something to consider...some investment instruments offer more risk than others, as we are always concerned about the Return on Investment (ROI).
When it comes to investment in people, considering a few important benefits makes it clear that the returns are worth any risk that may be involved.
There is also a return for the one who is investing. Jesus has told us that we can live in such a way that we are making heavenly investments. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). Where we invest ourselves will determine where our hearts lie. When we invest in the eternal welfare of another, we are making deposits in our heavenly retirement account. The good thing is, it's not the FDIC that guarantees that investment, it is God Himself!
What is the Next Step?
If you agree that investing in people is not only biblical, but urgently needed in our world, what will you do about it? What is your purpose? Generally, as a Christ follower, it is to glorify Him and to point others to Him as you love Him supremely and love others as yourself. Specifically, however, your purpose...the unique context in which you carry out that general purpose...that is where you can focus to determine what investing in others looks like for your. Is it your children at home because you're in that season of life, or that coworker or supervision report that needs you to take them under your wing? Maybe it is that youth of a single parent at church, or a college student you know. Ask God to show you who may need your investment...praying for awareness and guidance often opens our eyes to the people who are right there before us and we may not have noticed before. A willing heart is the first step.
Erwin Wullschleger, Jr. may never know what an impact he had on a junior high student in whom he took the time to invest. I've often wished I had looked him up and shared my appreciation for what he did for me. Nevertheless, I think he has some idea now, as he has laid up treasures in heaven.
Who has made significant investments in your life? Share a story of how they impacted you, in the comments below. Share this post to spread the love!
8/25/2021 08:53:53 am
Thank you for sharing this useful article
8/25/2021 08:55:56 am
Nice article, I agree with this
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With over forty years of ministry experience, Randy Kinnick continues to live a life of pursuing the purpose for which he was created. Whether teaching God's Word to adults, coaching youth and young adults in finding their purpose, or caring for the hurting and abused in Southeast Asia, the adventure has taken him around the world in ways he could have never dreamed. The adventure continues!