Quietly — September 26, 2011



I watched him closely.

Truthfully, people-watching is my second-favorite thing–directly behind eating, although I have to admit that observing folks is much less injurious to my health and creates–at least usually–very little indigestion.

I only saw him for twenty-six hours and thirty-three minutes–and that wasn’t continuously.  It was in three big spurts.  Saturday night he helped me unload my equipment and place it in the sanctuary of the United Methodist Church in Martinsburg.  I try to be as unobtrusive as possible when invading the sacred temples of my brethren, but there are often obstructions in the way that make it nearly impossible for me to wiggle my “form” into their “reason.”  Usually it’s some sort of pulpit furniture that has been there longer than I have been alive–and has a will to stay.

But this fellow just went about the business of moving it to the side so that it would seem that I had purpose for my placement. He neither complained nor posed for pictures at the finish line.


 Then, during my sound check he sat still as I made sure that all the sounds and whistles and horns were doing their correct bonging and banging.  He just let the music touch his soul–even though, due to the fact that it was a testing time, it was fragmented and incomplete.

The next morning he was there to greet me, bright and early, with the same spirit of willingness. I watched him closely during the morning as a microphone failed to deliver its promised amplification. Folks were a bit stymied. He climbed the stairs to the balcony and quietly walked over, made a couple of adjustments to help out the floundering sound person, and in moments all was well and functioning again. Nobody saw him.  Nobody praised him.  Just me.

He was there for all three of the services, culminating in the evening, sitting ardently at his station, listening to my words and attempts at sanity, to hang around afterwards to once again quietly load me up in my car so I could be on my way. He didn’t notice I was watching him. He might even be a little bit embarrassed that I’m writing this essay in jonathots about him.

Because my dear brother has found a secret in life.  Many people are dissatisfied with just seeing what needs to be accomplished and doing it.  They require adequate ego massage to take away their aching need for appreciation.  Not my friend. He has discovered that the power in life is being the first one to see–and being able to perform a valuable function without blowing a trumpet and creating notice for yourself, but having the soul satisfaction and assurance that without your participation, the world might have been just a little less well-rounded.

And he does it quietly.

I’m working on the quiet part. I often humbly insist that I don’t need praise–as I hang around the extra three minutes, hoping to hear an acclaim.  How fearfully, wonderfully and humorously I am made! 

But I think if I watch people like my friend more often, I will understand that the true essence we have in life is not in being recognized for our deeds, but rather, our deeds being recognized and traced back to us by careful detectives of the spirit, who find out much later that without us, things might just not have turned out so well.

Can I wait for the payoff? Can I simply enjoy seeing and doing–without being seen and applauded for what I’ve done?

I don’t know.  I’m working on it. And I will tell you, it is well worth the effort–because to quietly know that your input is powerful without needing to be affirmed by the society around you may be the definition for both inner strength … and Godliness.

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