by Dan Wolfe featured in the May 2016 issue
“If something doesn’t end up broken, we didn’t have a successful activity” was the unexpected statement that came from my department head after I had relayed the fact that a window had been broken while resetting a wing of classrooms after a big school-wide activity.
I was a young guy in college when I first started working under the leadership of Marlene Evans. She was an icon, a larger-than-life personality with a lot of authority and influence. Knowing this, I assumed I would be scolded over my workers’ carelessness and lectured about the importance of things when she heard about the window…but I was wrong. I was wrong because she lived by the principle that people are more important than things. She knew that my crew had worked hard and put in long hours to help bring some joy and diversion to others. She wasn’t about to “throw us under the bus.” She taught that if someone somewhere was having fun, someone somewhere else was doing a lot of work.
One time a group of us guys had done a skit where one of the men went off script and threw out some lines that were insulting to audience members about their personal appearance. I recall that meeting where she recounted those “funny” lines and then proceeded to explain with tears in her eyes how hurtful those words could be to those people.Then she calmly asked that we refrain from using that type of humor anymore. She was gracious and respectful—even in her correcting someone who hadn’t been very gracious or respectful.
Later in life, after being ill and not having the strength she once enjoyed, she asked me to join her “dream team” to help plan her nationwide ladies’ conference, the Christian Womanhood Spectacular. In this role I was the only man on an all-woman committee. Clearly she was the leader, but she would seek my opinion often. She never belittled anyone nor ever had the “I-need-to-prove-I’m-worthy-to- be-in-charge” attitude. She loved and showed great respect to all of us on the committee and sought to build us up in our various skill sets.
All of this helped me see that she really did believe people were more important than things, position, power, or cheap laughs. I value the time I got to work with and learn from such a great teacher.