This keeps coming to me so I guess I’m gonna write about it, even though doing so may mean I will turn off various people, for almost opposite reasons. I’ve been thinking about humility for days now, ever since I spoke with a local pastor whose church I go to sometimes (there goes half of you). It’s weird cuz I don’t go there regularly, although a friend of mine speaks there occasionally on Sundays, and has begun to lead a weekly thing there mid-week. She and her following kind of invade this small, quiet church regularly, and those of us who attend when she speaks are SO not quiet. It’s an odd phenomenon and it fascinates me, mostly because of the reaction of this pastor. I’ve been going to church for many years now, have known many pastors, have even been married to one (surprise!), and I have to say….. I’ve known very few whom I’d consider humble (and there goes the other half).
And I don’t say that to be critical; it’s almost part and parcel of the position. Comes with the territory. Pastors, as we usually experience them anyway, hold an audience captive for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, while they speak on whatever they’ve determined people need to hear that day. Don’t even get me started on all the things I do not like about that scenario. But that’s not my point here. My point is that that arrangement easily fuels the speaker’s ego, sense of self-importance, and can over-elevate their role in the spiritual community. Or misdirect it, at least. An occupational hazard, if you will; hopefully less of a personal weakness. So when I meet and get to know a pastor who does NOT need to be the center of attention, who willingly and joyfully gives away his precious pulpit, to a woman no less, AND instead uses the time to serve the teenagers in the back room?!?! Oh yeah, that guy gets my attention. I do want to hear what he has to say. He has earned the right to be heard, in my book.
I could go on here about the biblical value of humility, of how Christ Himself modeled it, prized it, and taught on it…but I won’t. Mustn’t pontificate in a piece on not pontificatingJ. Anyway, He pretty much nailed it with the whole washing of the feet thing, one of His last “sermons.” Gotta love a God who teaches by showing, on His knees no less. Many Eastern religions also wisely honor the act of serving as well. And in this very particular historic moment where we are bombarded by the hard sell of politicians who embody the religion of ego and power, the gentle message of service is especially appreciated. It is, in fact, a power move. The whole “the least shall be greatest” thing.
So yeah, this pastor blows my mind by behaving in a manner opposite of many clergy. But I mean here to talk more about the power of humility in service than the misuse of position, tempting as that is, LOL. I’m thinking of the many teachers, nurses, artists, firemen …….well, there really is no limit, is there? The young single mom who served you coffee this morning at Starbucks….the teacher heading into a classroom of kids resistant to learning….the nurse who encouraged you in the hospital when you were frightened and wearing a thin gown with an embarrassing slit…..the older guy who pumped your gas in the icy cold last winter (Jerzey peeps). Sure, they might not have been motivated by humility, but still. They were performing acts of service, worthy of our props and appreciation. I wonder if there is not some spiritual power in that, regardless of motivation….
I do believe there is power in our response to them. I do believe that when we value the person offering service to us, when we show appreciation to that checkout person standing on her feet for hours, we feed the world with love. I’ve had a weird attraction to checkout people for years, and that looks very odd in print but it’s true. Maybe because as much as I’ve worked some tough, crazy jobs, and I have, I don’t think I could stand in one place for long periods hitting those barcodes. My back couldn’t do it, my brain couldn’t do it, and I mean no disrespect; I’ve cleaned toilets for a living. So when I check out in a store, I can’t help but notice the checker, usually a woman, standing… standing…. oh wow, still standing and checking. That is a hard gig. Showing some love to her is an honor. Appreciating her standing chops alone is easy to do. And there is power in that. We have the power to lift one another up in the simplest ways. A kind word, a token of recognition and appreciation. It only takes humility, and awareness. And in this, the age of Trump/Clinton, don’t we all yearn for some significant power? Some way to heal the world, to ease the pain?
I see I’ve rambled a bit. I started by thinking of Jeff and how his example has stirred me. But that kind of proves my point. Seeing him serve teenagers joyfully rather than grasping his opportunity to be up front has moved me deeply. More than any words he might say, his actions taught me. Those are some lucky kids in that back room with him, and the power of his example of humility and service floats right through the walls to the front of the church. No pulpit necessary. And brought healing to a heart maybe somewhat desensitized by long-winded preachers. A true servant is a powerful force. We who appreciate humility and kindness and service are a powerful force, or can be. No matter what your faith, be a vessel of love and appreciation today, to a nurse, teacher, artist, fireman, or yes, please, those magnificent checkers! Power to the people, y’all. In the most unusual ways.