Rob the Runner inspired Sarah to come up with a 2006 two-word theme. As I was writing an email this afternoon, I used the words "good and thoughtful" and it reminded me of a man I've known for years. Under normal circumstances I would use an initial or some form of anonymity in referring to him. In this case, I won't because if you happen to run into him, you are truly blessed. His name is Steve Hallford. He is an Anglican priest. The first thing most everyone notices about Steve is that he is quiet. In fact, it's been a bit of a running joke that Steve shouldn't try to yell - he simply can't! It's almost comical to watch him try, in fact!
Having worked with Steve on numerous occasions over the years, I discovered that he exhibits some truly amazing qualities. Never have I met a person who is so thoroughly "thoughtful"... and thoughtful in every sense.
Here is a man who will very methodically map out a strategy. Before he considers a move, he crosses all the "t"s and dots all the "i"s. I remember helping him conduct a survey of his parish. Of course, interviewing absolutely everyone was going to be near impossible, if not redundant. So we set about selecting a suitable cross-section of the congregation. The committee used all the variable you would normally think of: gender, age, income, attendance record and so on. The one thing Steve made a point of mentioning before we commenced was this: "What about person a, person b and person c... I think you should include them because they quite often have differing views from the mass population of our parish." Was it good to include such "specific" people when the idea was to get a "general consensus"? Maybe, maybe not. What Steve effectively had done was to "thoughtfully" include those who would normally be overlooked - not out of charity, but because he felt it important to include their views.
To watch Steve in conversation with another person, you can TELL he LISTENS with intent and thinks BEFORE he speaks. Any time he's prepared a piece for "public speaking", it's frightfully obvious by his delivery that he has put much care and consideration into his well-chosen words. He will deliver a sermon, for example, with no notes in sight. He has prepared himself before he speaks, and delivers every message with a sense of humanity. The stories he tells, the conversations he has all come from a most genuine source - his heart.
In the position of parish priest, Steve quite often has to deal with over-zealous parishioners, folks with chips on their shoulders and people with every-day personal problems. One of his very special gifts - something I intend to cultivate in myself - is his knack for knowing not only what to say, but what not to say.
I can guess that most everyone, at the very least, has some perception of priests as "good" people. I've seen Steve touch the hearts of many people in a "good" way - giving only what is necessary, not overloading someone with kindness or resources they don't need or want. That, in and of itself is thoughtful.
This year, I will borrow the words that prompted me to think of Steve Hallford. He is a shining example of Good and Thoughtful.