I am a people person. I tend to focus my energies on relationships and not things. On the surface, that sounds so good. But there is a downside to such inclinations. My common sense is frequently lacking. Just over ten years ago I attended a funeral service that was related to my chaplaincy work. It was a service for a precious 16-year-old girl. My mind was drawn to a family that I barely knew at that point. I wasn’t paying attention to minute details like the weather forecast…
After the service, we prepared to proceed to a nearby cemetery. It was pouring down rain. I was wearing a Class A dress uniform. And of course, I had no raincoat. That would be an act of common sense to have a raincoat stowed in the car! A deputy with the sheriff’s office was standing in the downpour directing traffic proceeding into the cemetery and blocking cars traveling from the other direction. When he saw me get out of my car in a dress uniform, he immediately took his yellow slicker off and offered it to me. I can’t get the image of this special servant directing traffic with no protection from the rain out of my mind. He was not about to take “no” for an answer that cool March day in 2008. I reluctantly agreed to put on the raincoat.
I heard from that gentleman today. He sent me a “congratulations” on Linkedin for my 14th work anniversary here. And in the process, he said some really kind things. But all I can think about is a yellow raincoat that he eagerly shared on a rainy March day.
His kind overture today took me back to 2008. And it also prompted me to think about what it really means to be of genuine service. I think I overcomplicate things. Sometimes real service is pretty simple. And it’s sacrificial in the most basic ways. Serving others entails paying attention to a need and seeking to fulfill it immediately. And serving also involves recognizing that some acts have a double meaning. My friend didn’t want me to get drenched, but that was also his way of reaching out to a grieving family. He knew I was there to greet them and offer comfort. And while I attempted a gesture of comfort, he served in the background by directing traffic in the rain. It’s not a pleasant task, but it is of utmost importance. That too is a component of real service. Serving the in background where few are even paying attention. May I be alert to the most basic needs around me today. Someone may need a raincoat. But that would necessitate some common sense on my part… Perhaps a resolve to use common sense needs to accompany the desire to serve well!