Yesterday I met Alvin. Alvin is a medical assistant. I was in his office for an exam.
At the start, he had that moment where he was trying to create conversation, somewhat to see if his patient would talk. Did I need to talk or not, you know, that awkward avoidance of silence that we try to fill. He wouldn’t know that I wasn’t looking for conversation. It was 8AM. But I honored his efforts.
One way I did that was to ask about the very faint music I heard. His replied, “Oh, it’s Christian music. I have to have it playing.”
That’s all it took. When I said I thought I recognized the music, he felt released to go down the church conversation. I let him guide the conversation, inquire whatever he wanted, express his thoughts, etc.
How would I have known that he’d land on the topic of how challenging the job of being a pastor is? He described his observations about people having no idea the things pastors have to deal with, how scrutinized they are, the stress they deal with, and that they rarely seem to be able to relax.
Then he said this: “My pastor and I have a pretty close relationship that I’m grateful for. And our family makes a point to make our home a safe place for him and his family. I’ll call him up and invite them over just to give them a place to be themselves and hopefully release some stress. We don’t talk about church stuff. Our family wants to make sure we do what we can to support the pastor and his family.”
I’m just smiling on the inside and saying to myself, “He has no idea who he’s talking to.” Then he asked what I thought about it. I decided to answer that I’m a preacher’s kid. He busted out laughing. “Well, I don’t have to tell you. You’ve seen it all, from the inside.” I left it at that.
I was Alvin’s first patient. I left thinking he’d had a good start to the day. I know I had. Why? I witnessed a man not only seeking to live a holy life given a chance to express his faith but also to model what many people need in their lives. Many people, particularly anyone in a leadership position, need safe people. The safe people they need have no agenda other than to honor them, respect them, accept them as human beings, and support them in ways they may not even know or acknowledge they need.
But let’s be real. Everyone needs safe people. Everyone needs an Alvin. And we all have the chance to be an Alvin.
Who’s your Alvin?
Whose Alvin are you?