The parson was changing the sign in front of the church. He’d completed one side which read: “Inside every senior citizen there’s a child yelling, ‘What happened?’” Now he’d moved to the other side. He placed three numbers on that side: “143.”
A car pulled into the church parking lot. Rodney Swenson, the associate pastor at the Church of the Called-to-Redemption-and-Generous Giving, was driving. “Hey, Parson, is that a message from God or a message from you to your girl friend?’
“Either way,” the parson said, “it’s a powerful message.”
“Got a minute?” asked Rodney.
“Sure,” said the parson. “You want to come inside a to talk?’
“No, sir. I just need to ask you for some pastoral advice.”
“What’s that?” asked the parson.
“Well, I’m sure you heard about Jeff Smith, the little toddler who was killed in that horrible accident. Most of the members of the family are in our church. For some reason they seem to be reaching out to me. And I have to tell you the truth, Parson, I don’t know what to tell them. It’s a senseless tragedy.”
The parson placed his arm on Rodney’s. “Listen, Rodney, there are no answers to give them. There’s no explanation you can provide. But you don’t need to do either. Here’s the thing, Rodney, what you need to do is be with that family. You don’t, necessarily, need to say a thing. What you need to do is be with them. Listen to me, Rodney, being a pastor is not providing answers, being a pastor is not making people feel better. Being a pastor is being present. Just be with then, Rodney. Be with them.