On October 25th at 12:52 pm, our family welcomed Samuel Greene Taylor-Troutman into the world. He weighed about nine pounds, measured almost twenty-two inches, and received a name with twenty-six letters. There are other numbers I could share about him, but here’s the thing: I could never count, quantify, or calculate the joy he brings! My wife, Ginny, and I are so in love with him.
A few days later, however, we became aware of some grim statistics and heart-breaking figures. As a result of Hurricane Sandy, over eight million people were without power, as much as twenty billion dollars will be needed for repairs, and at least seventy-five people are now dead in this country alone. Once again, mere numbers are instructive to a point, but in the end, are an impoverished means of assessing the situation. Numbers do not do justice to the pain.
In thinking about Sam and Sandy, another insight comes to mind. While we can never share the exact experience of another, we can do what we can with what we have. The church I serve has created a volunteer list to bring meals to our house. From all across the country, donations have been pouring in to worthy organizations, like the American Red Cross. When your world is turned upside down, either by a newborn or a cataclysmic storm, sometimes you just need a hot meal offered by a friendly face.
But I don’t believe that we should stop there.
Sam’s arrival afforded me a new metaphor for leadership. The image is not about numbers, but rather a person; specifically, a midwife. Our midwife entered the hospital room when my wife was about halfway through her labor. With calm encouragement, she offered some advice about breathing. She stuck with us, coaching Ginny the entire time. Then she changed into her scrubs and got down to business. As my wife pushed, there was this look of absolute intensity in the midwife’s eyes. Part concentration, part determination, I can only say that she wore the expression of someone willing a positive outcome.
It seems to me that, when crisis occurs, the church is good at the initial response. We bring casseroles, make donations, and offer prayers. I would never discount the importance of any of these actions, especially the latter. But what would it take for us to fully invest? How can we coach people to find the inner strength necessary to overcome obstacles? How can we equip people to do the miraculous by our sustained and loving presence? Like a midwife, how can our eyes burn with an intensity equal to the challenge at hand?
Difficult questions for which there are surely no easy answers. But, in concluding, I offer this: maybe we can start with our attitude.
Several hours after Sam was born, our midwife came back to our room. We were all resting comfortably, our son lying in my arms fast asleep. It had been a big day! After checking on my wife, she paused.
“This was a privilege,” she said slowly emphasizing each word. That intensity was back in her eyes. For all that she gave, everything that she offered, she still understood herself as one who was receiving. And that, my friends, is the kind of servant leadership cannot be measured.