Dusti in 1981, shopping while leading us Tithe of Life interns on a trip to a Mexican border town (my first time to leave the U.S., if only for an afternoon).
Back in my Alabama youth, Covenant Presbyterian was fortunate to have as Director of Christian Education a redheaded dynamo named Dusti, who went beyond simply covering the Bible to imaginatively engaging the whole (and confused) person that is the average adolescent. Along with a wide range of creative activities and a lot of one-on-one attention, Dusti hauled us five hours up the road to Memphis for career counseling – where a test told me I was supposed to be either a writer, a pastor, or a teacher.
Five years later, Dusti recruited me to be a domestic missionary of sorts in the Presbyterian Tithe of Life program. I spent two years directing a church youth program in Texas – my first time living away from home, not to mention my first experience as a teacher. Those were great years, in large part because of the way Dusti masterfully built the emotional bonds between the Tithe of Life Interns during five weeks of training up in the Texas hill country; some of those people are still in touch with me today.
Dusti takes a break along with us Tithe of Lifers , including the future Rev. David Judd.
Nine years after THAT, I became a teacher of writing, my confidence in leaving Alabama and newspapering a second time no doubt reinforced by the Texas adventure Dusti pushed me to explore.
Another 21 years, brings me to last spring. While leading discussion during a mentoring workshop, I found myself spontaneously citing some of the facts above as an example of truly seeing the needs of young people and helping them find their way. The event was at the Catholic college where I teach – a job that weirdly blends all three categories from that career placement test Dusti got me take back in 1976. Like any good mentor, she helped me see who I was, where I might be going, and how I might get there.
Dusti Moser Deaver, having touched hundreds like me over the years, passed away Sunday after a brave fight with cancer. As expected, I mourn Dusti’s loss. But I also find myself appreciating all those who work with young people, engaging them with sensitivity and imagination, striving to see them for who they are – and who they can become.
(Appropriately, Dusti was part of my first-ever entry of this blog; you can read that piece by clicking here.)
Dusti gets surprise kiss from one of her youth directors-to-be at end of training.