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Sometimes You Just Need to Disappear

The best pastoring doesn't happen in the office.

Often I think of an inn-keeper my wife, Gail, and I met in Vermont. Everything about him seemed unusual: his dress, his use of language, the ambience of his inn. He aroused my curiosity, and I began asking questions. I learned that Jack Coleman had been the president of Haverford, a well-known college. Later on, he had headed a prestigious educational foundation. Now, in semi-retirement, he ran an inn. Then I learned that he had acquired the life-long habit of regularly disappearing for short periods of time. He simply dropped out of sight. Presumably some assistant (or relative) knew where to find him, but the rest of the people in his world didn't.

When he resurfaced (perhaps ten days later), he would tell how he'd worked as a shoe-shine man at a railroad station or as a worker on a garbage collection team. Once he bussed tables at a fast-food location. Why?

"Because," he said, "in my line of executive work, it's easy to lose touch with the larger, very real world of common people. And ...

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