I got caught in the dumpster this morning.
There is a big dumpster across the street, It’s full of stuff, the remnants of decades of marriage, of accumulation, of life. She’s in a nursing home, he’s living with their daughter. With few friends, with the house sold, with no grandchildren, the dumpster is full.
I took some rotten landscape timbers across, because I had permission. I started looking in cigar boxes. Ken was a machinist, though long retired. I found grease pencils, used for something now forgotten.
As I was perched on the side of the dumpster, a van pulled up. The driver got out, and walked up the driveway smiling. She acted as if she knew me. She asked if it was my house. She asked if I knew where her husband was. I finally asked who her husband was. “Phil S__”.
I knew him. I see him every Sunday. When I am walking through the church, he’s at the copy machine. He teaches adults. I’m a pastor. But I don’t remember ever meeting his wife. So unshaven, grubby, standing next to the dumper I climbed down from, Dorcas and I met.
He paints. That’s why he was at the house. She came to take off switchplates. She went in, leaving me to think. And throw stuff in the dumper. (And take a couple things out).
I had already been thinking about my job. At least one description of it is in the Bible. “Equipping the saints for works of service,” is how is it phrased in one version of the book of Ephesians. I’m supposed to help people learn, to give them the tools to help other people.grow up.
It’s a challenge for me, because I feel more like doing than helping do. To be blunt, I get more credit for doing something cool than for giving someone else permission and encouragement and skills to do something even cooler. More accurately, I get more ego massage.
But I have this funny feeling that if I spend all my time doing rather than helping others learn, I will end up with a dumpster full of stuff never passed on. I can be teaching someone how to update the website, someone else how to use a mindmap, others how GenY thinks and how to pray in an email, still others how to encourage other people. I can remind and clarify. I can text and tweet and write and talk and cry and hug and ask and tell.
And if I do, there may be a dumpster full of old bolts and boards and books in front of the house. But maybe I will have done my job. Just like after Phil paints, he leaves pretty walls, but after he teaches, he leaves changed lives.
What, dear friends, are the things that you could be passing on? What’s the legacy that you will be building this weekend, hug by hug, confession by forgiveness, tear by laugh, moment by life?
And what are you leaving in the dumpster?