Linda Lee Tarver is a Sunday school teacher.
She’s also the vice chair of the Lansing Promise, the community affairs director and elections integrity liaison for secretary of state Ruth Johnson, and the author of “Dyed in the Wool.” She’s been inducted into the Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan (RWFM) Hall of Fame. She worked as a commissioner for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Her accomplishments alone could take up an entire page.
But Tarver would rather talk about her Sunday morning classes.
One of this year’s Leadership Award honorees, Tarver explains that her passion for service grew out of her faith.
“Based on immersing myself in the community, I saw some needs and I saw I could contribute to enhancing my community,” she said. “Particularly as a Sunday school teacher, I saw a lot of children and women who were going through challenges. It was difficult to see these needs and then turn it off and act as if it didn’t exist Monday through Saturday. This motivated me to do things differently and engage in the community.
“My goal is to build community by emulating Christ and shining light on grace, mercy, love and the forgiveness of God. My time is short to do it. I have to live a life of urgency and do the things He wants me to do. I’m on borrowed time.”
To Tarver, faith is undoubtedly an important part of community.
“I think of my role as a Sunday school teacher not only as a ministry but also as a community service,” she said. “That’s where community begins — where faith begins. People come in hurting and they leave empowered. People come in alone and they leave with family, and that is what I consider a great community. That’s what perfect strangers coming together on a Sunday will do for you. I’m a better person because of the Word of God and spirit, and my community is better.”
Building a Better Future
As an initial drafter of the development plan for the Lansing Promise and a key player in adding Olivet to the list of schools included in the Promise, Tarver finds the results both rewarding and humbling. She is a proud proponent of making the scholarship accessible to everyone, and the feedback she receives affirms her work.
“Some of the comments we received from our first class were amazing,” Tarver said. “It blessed my heart to hear students say ‘I didn’t think I could afford to go to school’ or ‘I didn’t envision myself going to college.’ The work I was doing really changed the lives of people.”
Tarver believes that people can all change the lives of others when they unite under a common cause. Issues can transcend political loyalties, and one doesn’t need a crowd to make a difference.
“We need to find a common agreement that impacts our community and work together,” she said. “Once we work together, we can’t be defied or stopped. There are some things that the community can
come to an agreement on. They’re not partisan issues; they’re people’s issues. And it doesn’t need to be a thousand people marching for a cause. It can take five or ten people to start a movement.”
Tarver stresses that anyone can be a part of change, regardless of your walk in life.
“While we are taught in primary years to assimilate to groups and teams and uniformity, it is okay to be different and unique and fearfully and wonderfully made,” she said. “And once you find comfort in the fact that you can be different, you can add value to the community by bringing a unique perspective and unique attributes to any table, any event, any group you encounter.”
“I’m really grateful for Olivet and for this award,” Tarver said. “I never saw myself as a person worthy of anything or deserving of anything, so I’m grateful my efforts are honored.”
She connected to Olivet through her nephew’s time at the College as well as her friendship with Linda Logan, Ph.D., vice president and chief inclusion officer. Tarver admires Olivet’s vision, citing the College’s history as unique and revolutionary.
“The whole campus lives up to its reputation and history,” she said. “I was telling President Corey that this was a Christian college, one of the oldest colleges, one most accepting of women and people of color. The grace put upon this college is magnificent, and it’s home. I’m happy I’ve had encounters with Olivet. I’ve been blessed with encounters, and I’m looking forward to more encounters.”
Living Life With Purpose
No matter what one encounters in life, Tarver believes it should be addressed without hesitation.
“Your life is not for yourself, and it is meant to be experienced for the good of the community,” she said. “It starts with your family, then your local community, then impacts the rest of the nation and the world. Life needs to be lived with urgency. We have a finite number of days to do everything we are purposed to do.”
Join us in celebrating Tarver and her fellow honorees at the 23rd Annual Leadership Awards Dinner on May 15 at the Country Club of Lansing. Registration includes a charitable gift to the Olivet Fund, which supports the students of Olivet College. Register today!