When I was a seminary student, one of my roommates was a portly, retired Jamaican restaurateur, Steven Samms, who went on to lead one of the most successful Unity ministries in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. Steven would tell us that the word problem actually came from root words meaning “move forward.” Whenever something unfair happened to him in school, he would draw himself up into his full 5 feet 2 inches of height and boom out in a deep basso profundo voice “What’s in this for me?” I’ll never forget the sight and sound of him doing that and how well things always turned out for him in the end.
I encountered this same wisdom in someone else around that same time. One of my closest friends was a middle school teacher. After flunking a girl who never did any work in his class, the girl threatened him with revenge unless he changed her F to an unearned C. He laughed, but then spent the next six months fighting off false accusations from her. The resulting investigation cleared him completely, but it threw him into a dark depression, leading him to question everything about the teaching career he once had loved.
There were five students in particular whom my friend couldn’t seem to reach, leading him to despair that he didn’t have what it took to continue teaching.
Finally, he relaxed and asked himself, “What’s in this for me?” Immediately, he had a vision of those five boys hiking with him up a nearby mountain trail. This made no sense to him, but he decided to give it a try. What did he have to lose?
He told these five boys that they were special students with unique potential and that he thought it might be great to take this hike together on a Saturday and talk about how they could best tap that potential. After spending that special day together, all five of them shifted their perspective in such a way that their grades soared and they blossomed. This experience gave new energy and life to his teaching and renewed his sense of commitment.
After several years of leading hikes with his most difficult students and witnessing the resulting turnarounds, word began to spread. Ten years later, the local superintendent of schools even joined the group and hiked with that year’s “special” students.
Are you facing a problem? Try asking yourself: “What’s in this for me?” Surrender into the answer, “I don’t know,” and let something new come up for you. That “something” will bring you a solution that will most certainly move you forward.