Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Adding Value to Others

Her name was Barbara (still is, I imagine), but I came to know her after a few months as Pokey. When she called me at the church, that’s how she identified herself. “Hey, this is Pokey,” she would say, “I was just calling to ask …” or “I was just calling to let you know …”. I can still hear the voice ringing in my ears. The nickname came from her siblings when she was growing up. She did not move as quickly as others because she had moderate cerebral palsy. She didn’t require a cane or any other kind of assistance to walk, but her slightly awkward gait and her speech revealed clearly what was going on.
Barbara sang in the choir at Lane Avenue Baptist Church in Columbus, OH when I was Minister of Music and Youth there. She is one of the brightest spots in my memory of those years. She wasn’t the most gifted singer I have ever had in a choir, but she certainly was not the least gifted either. Her strongest contribution to the choir, however, was not musical … it was spiritual. She was an encourager from the word go. I can’t even think about her without good emotions bubbling up in my heart (what a wonderful way to be remembered, by the way).
A couple of years into my tenure at Lane Avenue, I began asking various choir members to volunteer to lead a brief devotional (3-5 minutes every week). Barbara, ever enthusiastic about everything, signed up. She began with a scripture passage … I can’t for the life of me remember what it was now … then began to tell why it was meaningful to her. She began to tell how she valued her life so much because as an infant she almost died. Emotion and tears took over and she couldn’t finish; she didn’t need to. We were all fond of her anyway, but what she did that evening caused us to value her even more deeply. When her mother passed away (the first funeral I ever preached), she moved to Missouri with her sister leaving an empty space that no one else could fill. There was only one Pokey.
I’ve come to realize in recent weeks what it was about Pokey that made her such a memorable person in my life. Whenever she was around, she did something that leadership guru John Maxwell talks about: she added value to others. Her love for life and for personal interaction was contagious without being intrusive. One felt better just for having been around her. Maxwell says that adding value to others is something about which we have to be intentional. Pokey did it as naturally as breathing.
Some people I know can brighten a room just by leaving, but that wasn’t Pokey. We should all follow her example. That’s enough to think about for now …


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