Tuesday, July 4, 2017

They Also Serve...

Before I say what I want to say, I want to let you know that I wouldn’t be saying this were it not for the kind words of a good friend of over 25 years...that I’ve never met. She said things about me that I couldn’t say about myself, and inspired me to write this piece for others like me.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how my wife went on a one-week mission trip to Haiti. During the week she was gone, there was a bit of a public blow up about how I hadn’t been given an itinerary for the trip. I was sending my wife off for a week to a third world country, and I didn’t get the same information I would’ve given her if I was going off on a week-long business trip in the next state.

It got ugly very fast, and it created a situation that was impossible for me to explain my way out of or make better, as people accused me of selfishly not wanting to share my wife with the rest of the world.

And into this shitstorm came my friend Kathy with words that soothed me. I don’t know if they had any effect on the people who were attacking me, but they definitely did me a world of good. She talked about how Cheryl had gone to serve while I was left to suffer in a silence that wasn’t necessarily of Cheryl’s creation. She also spoke of how I tried to serve in my own way, but was denied that opportunity because of everything that had happened.

As I said, I found those words soothing, and I quickly sent her a private message explaining that this trip wasn’t something that Cheryl had just decided to go on of her own. When the people who organized it gave a presentation at our church, Cheryl turned to me and said, “That sounds interesting”, and without missing a beat, I said, “See ya!” She had no expectation of being able to go on that trip, she didn’t ask about going on it; she just mentioned in passing that it sounded interesting, and I told her to start packing her bags. I encouraged her to go, it was my gift to her; and now all these people were piling on me for selfishly not wanting to share her with the rest of the world.

It was then that my friend said words that I found even more soothing. Words that made perfect sense when I thought about them, but that I couldn’t have said about myself. Someone else had to say them about me. I’m going to paraphrase them here for the sake of others who find themselves in the same position.

She said that so often we look at service only in the direct way. We only look at the person who actually got on the plane and went to Haiti as doing service. But, she said, Cheryl’s service to Haiti wouldn’t have been possible without my service to her. We each did service in our own way, and no one was acknowledging my service because it wasn’t the obvious, front line, on the ground type. And yet, as she said, Cheryl wouldn’t have been in the front line, on the ground without my service to her. We both did service for the people of Haiti, just in different ways.

But I don’t want this to be just about me. I don’t want this to appear to be Keith whining and saying “Look at me! I contributed too!” OK…well maybe I do want just a little acknowledgment of my contribution, and for people to back off already. But what I really want is for you to think of all the people back home who made it possible for someone else to go do something like this. I want you to not forget that they did indirect service by making it possible for their loved ones to do direct service. And their contributions should neither be demeaned nor ignored.

As for me…I’m looking forward to doing indirect service again in two years, should Cheryl decide that she wants to go back.

Because I hear they thought she did a really great job.

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