Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: What Would You Have Me Do Now?

What Would You Have Me Do Now?

One of my dear friends and valued colleagues was the late Dr. Rodney Wilmoth. I can still see the twinkle in his eye as he told the story about a man-servant of a Duke and Duchess in Europe many years ago. The following conversation took place between the man-servant and the Duchess.

"James, how long have you been with us?"

"About 30 years, ma'am", he replied.

"According to my records", said the Duchess, "you were employed to look after the dog".

"Yes, ma'am", James replied.

"James, that dog died 27 years ago!"

"Yes, ma'am", he said. "What would you like to have me do now?"

I spent 48 years in a profession in which one of the prominent expectations was to help everybody find something to do. While I am not sure that this expectation is completely legitimate, the fact that clergy spend so much time and effort at this has legitimized the expectation to the extent that most people think it comes straight out of the Bible. There are times in which the process becomes a kind of game of ‘hide and seek'. There is a category of people in every church and community who, when they are asked to do something, will decline, but who leave you with the impression that if you were a proper leader, you would be able to ‘guess' what they would like to do. This is great sport with some people, but it will frustrate any who have accepted this ‘hide and seek' process as a legitimate expectation of leadership.

One of the most thrilling experiences of a church or community leader is to have people ask for what they want. There is, however, a sense in which there is something everyone can do without having to ask or be asked. Any person who genuinely wants to do something positive for the church, the community, the country, or for some individual person, can easily find many things begging to be done. They are usually things that are so simple anyone can do them, and so important that if they are left undone we will all be the poorer.

Smile at some lonely stranger. Speak to someone you do not know. Pick up a piece of trash. Find a person dining alone in a restaurant and when you leave pay for their meal and leave before they know who you are. Use your imagination and the list becomes endless. Then you will never have to ask the Duchess, the pastor, or anyone what to do next. The world is a better place when we practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.