Recently a faculty member with years of experience chose to retire to pursue other interests. Because of space limitations, his office was quickly gobbled up by another staff member. I had the responsibility of emptying his office and removing all of his remaining files to accommodate the new staff member. Even though he had previously removed many of his personal items, the office was still overflowing with years of files and binders and old books. Many memories were made here, as well as important decisions affecting students and the institution. Hard lessons were learned here, and difficult conversations held. All that was left of any of this was broken binders and papers askew in file drawers.
We tossed the papers and files that were not deemed confidential; and the rest needed to be shredded. So I stood at the shredder for an hour cutting up confidential files on teacher performance and student inquiries and personal notes that detailed hours of human interaction. It occurred to me in that moment that this is where much of the remains of our interactions will wind up – shredded and tossed in the trash. Whether positive or negative, whether helpful or misunderstood, the documentation of our human interactions if any will be chewed up into small strips of paper and tossed out. This thought seems similar to one from the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (I love the New King James here):
“According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
What will endure from the work that you are doing? Much of our activities at work, and all the paperwork and notes and files and binders that document and explain them will wind up in the shredder and be forgotten. But what will be the impact of our interactions? If we build our interactions on this foundation that Paul describes here, this foundation of grace and forgiveness and redemption; and if we live a life of integrity, living according to the faith to which we hold dear, then what will endure will be more significant than the notes describing it. Our work is not documented on paper alone, but on the hearts of those with whom we interact (Paul again, 2 Corinthians 3:2). And the shredder will not have the last laugh.