You never know who is behind the curtain

I recently took time to visit a former colleague in one of our senior living communities. We had a wonderful discussion about “old times,” events we experienced and people we knew 30 to nearly 40 years ago.

When I left, after an hour-and-a-half of conversation, I stopped at the front desk to sign out and spend a few moments with the administrative assistant/receptionist with whom I had emailed on occasion but never met.

“You know,” I mused as we spoke, “I wonder if the people here really know who this person is—not who he is, of course, but in terms of the history of our organization, of his role in that?”

The receptionist thought not.

“He once was snowbound at an airport in the Midwest,” I continued, “with the executive of a sister Lutheran agency in the Harrisburg region.” During a game of pool—at least according to the story, whose veracity I have no reason to doubt—the two of them decided to see if affiliation between the two organizations might advance Lutheran social ministry in the region.

It turns out their new entity soon partnered with Tressler Lutheran Home for Children—past operator of the storied Tressler Orphans Home—eventually resulting in Tressler Lutheran Services and, with the addition of years and a few other organizations, today’s Diakon.

More than that, my colleague—always an advocate for the “least of these”—diligently advanced social ministry and advocacy during his long career, often promoting justice-focused positions beyond what was popular at the time.

It turns out, I said, that staff were serving a pivotal leader—an unassuming one, yes—but an important leader nonetheless, in our near-150-year history.

No fault or criticism is intended; my friend would be the last to want others to care about his accomplishments. Nevertheless, for me, and perhaps for you, a small lesson:

You never know the background, or the history, or the accomplishments of those we meet. Occasionally, we can pull that story forth. At other times, for whatever reason, we cannot—so assume the best and most glorious. Sometimes those assumptions will be right.

By William Swanger
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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  • Thanks, Bill…
    for the important lesson you shared with the receptionist at BVLV. Our colleague there was an important person in the development of Lutheran services in Central Pennsylvania and beyond. Your sharing reminded me of those who went before us (and some who served with us) who were important factors in social services expansion and impact. Wonderful story you told. Thanks.

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