Gift of Availability
I was rolling down the interstate recently without giving much thought to anything. I was the passenger, as my friend was driving. I realized I seldom go anywhere when I am not driving. And we all know, when you are the driver, you need to be pretty attentive. Hence, I was enjoying the luxury of my semi-conscious state with my mind wandering here and there. Then at one point I noticed the van in front of us.
I am not sure what caught my attention, but when I saw the writing on the back of the van, I jumped to attention. With only a cursory look, it was easy to see the van was actually part of someone’s business. There I saw the name of the business, but that did not register with me. It could have been a plumbing or electrical business, but I have no clear memory. I do recall seeing a phone number to call, but now I cannot even remember the area code. In fact, there was only one detail that riveted my attention.
On the back of the van in the upper right hand side I read these words: “23 ½ hours of service.” I nearly laughed out loud! Twenty-three and a half hours in service---Wow! Immediately, I said to my friend, “I wonder what half hour he is not in service?” We both laughed. I was dumbfounded. I tried to think of what kind of business would be available all the hours of the day and night except for a half hour. My mind was stumped.
Why would one need a half hour each day to be doing something other than whatever service you were rendering? I know it did not fit the farm life I had lived---or any other kind of job I have held. I am never surprised to see businesses offer 24-hour service. You see this in restaurants, gas stations and all sorts of businesses. 24/7 is a phrase nearly everyone understands, even if we don’t understand why any business needs to be open every minute of every day of the week, month and year.
Since I have no clue what kind of business that van was embodying, I decided to take the odd timing in my own direction and, even, spiritualize it. The first thing that came into my mind is a favorite theme of mine when I think of ministry or service. When I think about ministry and service, I easily link it to the idea of availability. I have spent a few decades now in ministry or service of some kind. Much of it has been a teaching ministry, as I like to call it. Of course, in most kinds of ministry and service, there are the normal appointed things to do.
As a teacher, there are the class sessions, the syllabus and the plans to be executed. My daughter is a physician and she has her appointed duties in seeing patients, etc. For her and for me all those standard, routine duties are part of the 23 ½ hours of service. Clearly, I never saw myself involved in those kinds of hours. No one by herself or himself can offer that kind of availability. At least, that is where my thinking started.
But as I thought further into it, I realized that was not quite true. In the various kinds of ministry and services I have offered over the decades, I did not actually post hours I would be available. I knew the class schedule I would follow and the other commitments that had their particular schedule. But I also realized I was available, even though I might not be doing a scheduled thing.
For example, I would never refuse to see a student if it were outside the classroom time. If a student appears at my door, the door is always open. I am available. My ministry and service does not have parameters or limits that I know. I don’t have qualifications that pertain to age, gender, money, etc. If you have an issue and want to talk with me, I offer the gift of availability. Most of the time this gift of availability falls within the normal working day for me.
However, I also realize that I move through the life of my institution appearing in places that I am not required to perform---things like athletics, and various group gatherings. Since I do this, I am essentially offering the gift of my availability to whoever wants to avail herself or himself to my gift. This happens quite often. Since I respond so effortlessly, I never have thought about my gift of availability in this fashion.
And then the final thought came to me. I can even be at home or even in bed and I know I will respond if someone needs me and calls upon me. I have done it many times---in the middle of the night or any other hour. My availability is offered nearly all the time. But I wondered: is it offered 24/7. At first, I thought it probably was. But then I realized that is not quite true.
I am really operating with 23 ½ hours of service because I know the necessity of at least one-hour a day for myself in prayerful, disciplined, self-care. I must have at least that much restorative spiritual time or I will never be effectively available to anyone. I give thanks to that van for helping me appreciate my gift of availability.