Adoniram Judson’s son once said this to a group of purposeful missionaries almost a hundred years ago: “It is the little things we get by hot chase. The great things come to us, as it were, around a corner, when we are looking for something else.” I love that quote.
It happened to me this week. I had all these purposeful, “important” things I had to do. I made an efficient visit to the nursing home, watching my time. As I prepared to leave, one man, whom I will call Jimmy, weighed on my mind. I had known him as a park person years ago. He used to carry a baby squirrel around in his pocket. Somehow he found himself holed up in this nursing home. I am sure that there is more to the story, but he says that they took him to surgery and didn’t even tell him they were going to amputate his leg. He was understandably deeply depressed, and when I visited him I could hardly get two words out of him, ever.
Once he said, “All I want to do is get out of this place, go to the park, and drink a cup of coffee or something.” It was winter at the time, and all I could think of was the mind-numbing bureaucracy of trying to get permission to take him. But this week, I did take a moment and I asked a friend who worked there if I could take him out if I had a half hour. She said I might some day, certainly not that day, and gave me a few layers of instructions. She said I might ask one other head nurse.
I almost didn’t. But I went down to the proper floor and asked. It was like the parting of the Red Sea. The head nurse gave me a sheet of paper with her permission. I went to Jimmy’s room, and said, “Get ready, we are breaking out.” He looked at me with a look of immobility, stunned. Then he literally jumped out of his bed and into his wheel chair. He told me he hadn’t been outside the building for five years. We rushed down the halls and flashed our pass to anyone who asked. Doors kept opening. The head person pulled out a huge set of keys and opened the two series of gates outside. We wheeled into the sunshine.
Jimmy wasn’t just talking, he was singing. I had never seen such a happy guy. It was a beautiful spring day. We could hear a song sparrow in the distance. We went to a bodega, and made a purchase. I sat with him in the park and we talked about old times. I realized this important thing had come to me as a gift, despite all my purposeful plans to be productive that day. This is what we both bought at the bodega–a hot, dark, rich, creamy cup of coffee.
Upsided Down Leadership