It's a name that the average American does not know, even Pennsylvanians who can find his name engraved around the top of a building in our state capital. For Mennonites growing up in Montgomery or Bucks County, PA, it's a name that we do know well. That's because many of us attended the high school named after him. So did our siblings, our cousins, our aunts, uncles, and parents. And for a new generation, I bet even their grandparents call Christopher Dock Mennonite High School their alma mater.
Even so, many may not know all that much about the man who would be shocked to know that there is a school named after him. Christopher Dock was a school teacher in what would become the town of Skippack in eastern Pennsylvania. In an era when schoolmasters were known for their harsh disciplinary methods, Dock was a humble man who promoted a gentler teaching style. He wrote Schul-Ordnung, the earliest book on teaching methods written in the US. Dock was known for giving students gifts such as a penny, an egg, or a fraktur which he drew himself. Thanks to him, those of us who attended the elementary school which fed into the high school named after Dock, learned fraktur in art class and spent a day learning at a one room school. Our high school diplomas are written and decorated as frakturs as well. Schoolmaster Dock was also known for kneeling at his desk, praying for his students. Legend has it that this is where he was found when he had died. Marguerite de Angeli wrote a delightful story about Dock called Skippack School, one of my favorite children's books.
This past Friday night I found myself sitting in the auditorium once again. I sat next to my parents and in front of aunts and uncles, many of whom also attended the school. My father was being honored at their homecoming concert as one of the recipients of their alumni Distinguished Service Award, an award well-deserved.
Serving is definitely a word I would use to describe my dad. As a child I remember him taking several trips with Mennonite Disaster Service, an organization that brings aid to areas hit by natural disasters. He has served family members, friends, business partners and employees in many ways. He has been blessed to bless others. Since retirement, he volunteers by visiting the elderly and in a local Care and Share Thrift Shop which benefits Mennonite Central Committee. He mentors the next generation in business practices, parenting and marriage relationships. He still takes short term mission trips to places within and without the United States. I know that retirement looks different than he had planned due to a spinal cord injury several years ago, but I also know that it looks exactly as God had planned. Tomorrow I will go to the high school's chapel service to hear him speak about his life of service, reminding the students to trust God because His plans are always better than our own.
Receiving an award as a Mennonite can be seen by some as a contradiction in terms. Mennonites are traditionally taught to be humble. I would argue that receiving an award for a life of using your talents is humility if one has the right definition of humility. True humility is seeing yourself for who God made you to be, nothing more and nothing less. The opposite, pride, is thinking more or less of yourself than you truly are. It took me many years to learn that the brand of humility I was taught, to think of myself as less than the beautiful creation God intended, was a false sense of humility. God has given us gifts and passions and opportunities so that we serve Him and ultimately bring Him the glory. That is the life my dad lives. I am proud to call him Dad and know that I am who I am today because of the heritage God has given to me. True humility means that we can all hear these words when we one day meet the One who created us to serve Him with the unique gifts given to us: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.