Stabbing Trash in the Rain

I have these insane allergies to almost everything (especially green stuff), and I get allergy injections every few days. Getting those needles in my arms is not necessarily the highlight of my week, but the alternative is a miserable existence. I’ve opted for the pain.

Today, I headed out for my weekly impaling, and it was pouring rain. As I pulled out of my neighborhood, I spotted a guy walking down the median strip with a stabber (you know–one of those sticks with a nail in one end). He was picking up trash amidst the downpour.

I’ve obviously seen many people like him doing that job. However (as far as my puny memory can probe), I don’t remember seeing anyone else performing that function in driving precipitation. My mind immediately traveled back to a time in college when I did that same chore. It was my part in receiving a track team “scholarship.” I guess it was actually called a “work scholarship” (which, when translated, meant, “We want you on the track team, but not badly enough to give you a real scholarship.”)

“I love that guy.”

It was somewhat of a demeaning job, I suppose, but I never really minded it. To this day, I love seeing things neat and in order. And that brings me back to the guy in the rain.

I love that guy. I don’t know him, but I love him. And it’s not just that we’re called to love one another (John 13:34). This guy was performing a function in my neighborhood that ultimately benefited me. I love him. The oddity of all this is the fact that there are undoubtedly many people driving by who look down their noses at him or anyone else executing such a task.

I think part of our problem is the difference between elite and elitism. I want to be in the elite category at what I do. Unfortunately, many who arrive in that category then become elitists. They’re good, they know they’re good, and they begin acting like those who don’t measure up to their elite status are somehow beneath them.

They not only enjoy their elite status, they abuse it. Whether it’s wealth, intellect, or talent, elitism is one of the banes of our society.

Lowering Myself

Once I was asked what I’d like to do when I retire from pastoral ministry. I responded that I might like to be a church janitor. They were aghast at my answer (presumably because they didn’t understand why I’d “lower” myself like that). Frankly, I don’t see that as a lowering at all. As Scripture tells us, “I’d rather be a gatekeeper in God’s house than live in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10) Besides–wouldn’t it be awesome to have a janitor who could fill the pulpit when needed?

If there’s a congregation out there who needs a sanitation engineer, feel free to give me a call. I just might apply for the position. I’d rather not do it in the rain, however.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently the pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]

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