When I ordered books in December, I received an email from the author (slightly edited):
i just wanted to say thank you for ordering all the books a few week ago!! i’m honored! and i hope they’re of help!
congrats to you on all the good work you’re doing for the world!
if there’s anything i can do for you from out in ann arbor, by all means let know!
take good care
I didn’t respond. I figured the email was automated. I couldn’t imagine that the author, who’s busy running a community of businesses, would take the time to email me.
I started reading his books and noticed that the author gives his email address and invites readers to email him. Unusual. I decided to write him and thank him for his work. He responded, including this paragraph:
i realized when i saw your note that i don’t know if the email i sent before the holidays got through – in case it didn’t, it’s below!
It turns out that I hadn’t received an automated email. I’d received a very personal note from the author who had noticed that I’d bought his books.
We visited the city where he lives last week. I emailed to ask if he would sign a book for me, and he agreed to do so. Even better, he agreed to meet for coffee. I noticed a few days before we met that he’d been named one of the top 10 CEOs by Inc. Magazine (he’s #2), and yet he was willing to make time for me.
It turns out that this generosity is pretty normal for him. When he gave a commencement address at the University of Michigan, he offered to meet with each graduate to help them work on their vision. Thousands graduated, and yet he was willing to meet with any graduate who wanted the help.
(His books are excellent too, by the way. I’ll be posting a review later.)
I’m a pastor. And yet a Jewish deli-owner with anarchist leanings is teaching me something about the importance of getting personal, of serving people with generosity and joy.
I get it. We need to think carefully about our work. We need to set some boundaries to guard our priorities and to do important work. We can’t be available for everyone everywhere.
And yet I notice a tendency to go too far the other way: to become too unavailable, too distant, too guarded. We can start to treat congregants as aggregates rather than as individuals. We can wall ourselves off behind gatekeepers to a dangerous degree. We can buy followers on social media and mass-market our attempts to pay attention to people.
And yet there’s beauty in noticing the individual, in being generous with our time and attention, and of resisting seeing people as giving units, email or social media subscribers, or as parts of the crowd.
The more high tech this world gets, the more we need pastors who are willing to get personal and care. I think I already knew this, but I’m grateful for the reminder from Ari Weinzweig. He’s given me a good example to follow.