(Whatever it is, that’s what people will remember about you.)
My Post-It® note starred right back at me. I’ve seen it a hundred times before. The ubiquitous sticky note was the marvelous invention of a church choir member named Arthur Fry who needed something to mark pages in his hymnal. Happily for the world, he was a scientist at 3M and in 1970, they turned his adhesive invention into what was to become a billion-dollar business. Nice work, Art. Thank you!
My Post-It note has a digital counterpart on my computer that pops-up on my calendar, but last Friday, it was different. My Post-It note read, Why do you do this every, single, day?
Last Friday, I travelled to Canton, New York. I knew I was in a small town because I would have had to drive to Canada, only 90 minutes away, to find the nearest Starbucks. It turns out that my visit there was the ideal place to ponder my day’s Post-It note message without the ordinary distractions. Canton is the “Mayberry-RFD” of the Northeast. Last weekend’s quaint Hope Festival welcomed people of every age with music, cider, and tables brimming with handmade crafts and home-grown produce, cakes, and honey.
Canton was where my friend, the Rev. Clinton A. McCoy Jr., made his home and it was the place where he would have his final home-going. Clint, 62, died suddenly on Sunday, September 12, 2010.
Clint was known and loved by many in Newark Presbytery and across the church as the Synod of the Northeast’s Executive for Partnerships. In that role, Clint effectively helped guide and resource the Synod and its twenty-three presbyteries. To many presbytery leaders like me, he was a listening leader, a wise coach, and I regarded him as my pastor. He will be deeply missed.
I arrived early enough in Canton to personally offer love and support to Clint’s family, to his wife Barbara and his grown children. I also had the honor of extending gratitude for Clint’s ministry on behalf of Newark Presbytery, the New Jersey presbytery leaders, and the Synod’s executive collegium. I enjoyed the stories, (mostly fishing stories, Clint’s signature activity), as I listened to them being tearfully recounted, shared photos were passed around in tribute to a man who added so much joy to so many people.
Walking from Clint’s home, past the Hope Festival, on the way to the funeral home for services, my Post-It note message replayed in my mind: Why do you do this every, single, day?
I thought about how Clint would have responded to that message’s question. Why do you do the things that you do? The family stories I had just heard hinted at the answer, but I could’t quite decipher it.
Clint got up every day, I imagined, as I did, right? Gratefully embracing the gift of life from a gracious God who, in Jesus Christ, sends us out into the world to be a blessing. Check-in with family and with God. Read the news. Write and pray. Review the calendar, tasks, and priorities. Miles to go before I sleep. Get moving! (Repeat daily.) Why do you do this every, single, day?
Arriving at the funeral home early, I thoughtfully gazed in solitude at the myriad photos of Clint on easels and images dissolving into one another up on the big screen. Why do you do this every, single, day?
I was with Clint less than a week before at the New Jersey Presbytery Partnership Group meeting at our West Orange Presbyterian Center. He looked great and more rested than he appeared at July's Minneapolis General Assembly. We spoke about the fading summer and calendared several meetings ahead for African-American ministry, college chaplaincy, and middle governing body challenges to be discussed soon in Louisville. Clint offered the same great insight and nurturing guidance we all expected of him. Why do you do this every, single, day?
As I stood there alone in the funeral parlor just ahead of the hundreds of others that would soon be arriving, I looked again at the photos and the “recreation” of the McCoy refrigerator-door gallery. Finally, as if I solved a riddle, it became glaringly obvious to me; There were no photos depicting Clint’s work. No photos from his long pastoral ministry, no photos of his Synod connections, no photos from the scores of Presbyterian meetings he attended. None at all. Why do you do this every, single, day?
Well, one thing’s for sure— “work” as I typically regarded it, was not what got Clint up in the morning. Clint was real. He stood for something that matters.
What you truly stand for is what people will remember about you if you were to move away. What did people remember about Clint? Whether at home, on the lake, online, or in worship and work, Clint expressed his “gift” of life rooted in family and expressed with intentionality, humility, and authenticity. Christ-in-Clint was visible in abundant faith and love, perfectly captured by the gathered stories and photos.
Now that I have thought more about it, that’s what Clint made me feel like— his family. The work he did was important because others were important to Clint. His life’s work was fundamentally about family, the family of faith, and the world.
What does your church stand for? What you truly stand for will be how people will remember you. What would the neighbor’s say? What would they remember about your ministry? What would the “refrigerator-door gallery” look like?
“The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere (1Thessalonians 1.8 MSG).”
To effectively contribute to the change we want to see in this Presbytery, the community and in the world, we need to begin by understanding and appreciating each other, and those around us.
You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you have to make choices. Clint made his choices. We were all blessed. Hopefully, our choices and those of our churches will come from a deep sense of who we really are.
It’s never too late to begin living our lives with intentionality, humility, and authenticity. Christ-in-us is visible in abundant faith and love and through tangible and coherent actions. We know what photo’s are on Clint’s refrigerator door. What’s on your refrigerator door?