Greenleaf is clear that the hope for a society to become more just and more caring lies within the potential for the young to choose to become servants-first. Greenleaf is also clear that he is hope-full that enough teachers will appear in order to help the young understand their significant role in helping the society become more just and more caring – these teachers will also help the young develop their servant potential so that they might choose to embrace their role.
Greenleaf writes: teachers (individuals not institutions) will be inspired to raise the society-building consciousness of the young. And teachers may be anybody who can teach young people who have the potential to be servants and prepare them to be servant leaders. These teachers may be members of school faculties, presidents of colleges and universities, those working with young people in churches. Some may be parents, others may be either professionals or volunteers working with youth groups. But whoever and wherever they are, these teachers will catch the vision and do what they know how to do. First, they will reinforce or build hope. Young people will be helped to accept the world, and to believe that they can learn to live productively in it as it is – striving, violent, unjust, as well as beautiful, caring and supportive. They will be helped to believe that they can cope, and that, if they work at it over a lifetime, they may leave a little corner of the world a bit better than they found it. Then these teachers will nourish the embryo spark of servant in as many as possible and help prepare those who are able – to lead!
Who is called to be a teacher? Am I, are You, gentle reader? Am I, are You, prepared to respond to the call affirmatively with a resounding ‘YES’? How does one become ‘inspired to raise the society-building consciousness of the young’? Who are the ‘young’ – what is the age range that encompasses ‘young’? How do we demonstrate to the young that our society-building consciousness has been raised; how do we model this to the young? If a teacher is not a servant can he or she help the young develop their servant-nature? What is the vision? For Greenleaf it is that together we build a more just and caring society (who defines what a more just and caring society looks like, sounds like, feels like). The teacher, Greenleaf notes, does what he or she ‘knows how to do.’
What it is that the teacher knows how to do? The teacher knows about ‘hope’ and knows how to both ‘reinforce’ hope and ‘build’ hope. The teacher must demonstrate that he or she ‘accepts the world’ for if the teacher does not, he or she will not be able to help the young do so. The teacher must demonstrate that it is possible to live productively in the world as it is. Again, if the teacher cannot do so then he or she will not be able to help the young learn to do so.
The teacher must demonstrate that he or she can – and does – cope. Helping the young learn to cope is a crucial gift that the young need to be given. The teacher continuously reinforces a belief and a commitment: to leave their little corner of the world better off than they found it. This lived belief and commitment will help the young embrace such a belief and commitment (the young do pay attention to how the teacher lives and is powerfully influenced as a result).
Finally, the teacher, as servant, will seek out the ‘embryo spark of the servant’ residing within the young and feed this spark so that it becomes a flame, a passion that nurtures the servant-within. The servant will then be prepared to accept the invitation to lead when it is presented.
When I reflect upon the teacher in this way I find myself stopping to reflect upon who I truly am as a teacher. At times I am affirmed, at times I am disturbed – always, I am challenged.