Sometime during my Junior year at Lindblom High School on Chicago’s south-side, I made decisions that became life-shaping for me. I don’t remember when, but I told an academic counselor that I was not going to take Chemistry or Trigonometry. No way. I was being herded along in my large public school, during the post-Sputnik era, toward a science career. I just put my foot down and refused to take those two subjects. I agreed to take Physics and College Algebra – but the two Senior-level courses were a bridge too far.
I’m not sure why they accepted my youthful decision, which I admit was partly motivated by taking the easy road. I was always the guy that wanted to figure out the easier way to do something. That just made sense to me. So I elected to take three courses that would be academically less demanding – and they have made my life so much more productive. God was gracious in guiding an immature kid to make decisions that would have a profound effect for good on my learning and subsequently on my life serving the Lord.
First, I took Typing. I don’t know my exact rationale, but somehow I thought, in the late 1950s, that typing would be beneficial. I guess I knew that I was going to Bible College and that I would need to know how to type. I worked the summer after graduation as a bell-hop in a resort and saved my tip money to buy a portable typewriter that I used all through college and seminary. I also learned the rudiments of keyboarding that did not become significant until years later with the roll-out of Windows 95 and my initial immersion into computers.
Second, I took Spanish. Again, I don’t remember the precise reason. Perhaps the other choice before me was Latin, and I thought Spanish would be easier. Or, maybe the options included an English literature class with Mrs. Rule that I would avoid at any cost. Not sure, but I learned to understand English grammar much better by studying Spanish. But most importantly, my brief excursion into Spanish prepared me for later studies in Greek and Hebrew during my post-graduate studies in seminary.
Finally, I chose a semester of Journalism as an English credit. That was my most significant decision – and I can’t take credit for the life-shaping impact that single semester experience has had on my life and ministry. Today it is evident that God’s grace was setting me on a course to prepare me for tasks in the years to come.
In that class, I was exposed to all the facets of newspaper writing and production. A domineering lady was the teacher and served as the sponsor for The Lindblom Leader, the school’s large eight-page broadsheet newspaper. She assigned students in her class to write articles for The Leader and called us reporters. Then she recruited, or appointed, individuals (usually her pets) to become the editorial leaders for the next year – as Seniors.
I was quite pleased when she chose me to be the Front Page News Editor. That meant I could direct the reporters, design layout, create headlines, and run everything about the first page of the paper.
This went along smoothly at first, and then our overbearing advisor changed from being flattering to controlling. I would later learn this was her method of operation every year. She would recruit with sweetness, and then she would change to become dictatorial and controlling. She wanted the editors to spend all their time in her newspaper office under her fiefdom. But some of us had another life too.
Lindblom Technical High School
School auditorium with two balconies
At first, I humored her, but then started to realize she was grooming me to be the Editor-in-Chief for my final semester. I determined I could put up with the aggravation, but balked when she wanted to dictate who would take my place as News Editor.
Ultimately she told me that she was making the decisions and that was that. I said, fine, but then she didn’t need me and I resigned. That was it. I never went back and my career with The Leader was over. My relationship with the rest of the staff was not harmed; they were glad that finally, someone stood up to her.
Years later at our 50th Class Reunion, I had the opportunity to talk with the female classmate who wound up taking the Editor-in-Chief position. She said the sponsor was still her old self for that last semester, but my stand helped the staff to gain a little more respect from the old gal. But I have to take my hat off to that teacher. She taught me the basics of writing news stories and “putting the paper to bed” in the parlance of old newspaper layout jargon.
In all of my ministry positions, it has been my responsibility to lead or contribute to organizational publications. During my time with AACS I edited four different publications. Now with the wonders of technology, I write copy and within minutes have it whisked away electronically to spread information around the world in literally seconds. And that makes my job easier – just like I worked so hard at so many years ago.