By David Wilkinson
What do you do to restore order, hope or self-esteem when life gives you a kick in the stomach or on those days when you wonder if you’re really making a difference in the world?
I know I should say that I pray or turn to the Scriptures or (with the hymn) count my blessings and name them one by one. I do those things. Really.
But from time to time I also pull out a file folder from the desk drawer.
The label reads simply, “Keepers.” But if space allowed it could just as easily read, “My Feel Good About Myself File.”
Actually, I have two files that fit that description. One is in the desk drawer. The other is a digital folder on my laptop that contains e-mails and even a few text messages that I have cut-and-pasted into a document.
In my case, these files are different than the sentimental cigar box of keepsakes (or for some of my friends and family an oversized storage bin or dresser drawer stuffed with memorabilia).
A few items are from family members. Among my favorites:
— A few crayon and colored-pencil portraits of me by Micah and Meredith in their pre-school or early-elementary years. They never fail to make me smile.
— A “just because” card from Melanie. It reminds me that I can never do anything worthy of the unconditional love I have undeservedly received from her every day of our marriage.
— A six-word message written on the “Notes” app by one of my young nieces as she was playing with my new iPhone a few years ago. I discovered it weeks later. It read, “I think your awesum unkle David!” Being considered an “awesum unkle” really is awesum.
Most items are related to my work, and they have tended to come from unexpected sources. Among them:
— An e-mail from an acquaintance during my years on staff at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Years later he wrote to thank me for something I had said that brought encouragement to him during a difficult time in his life. The e-mail began, “You probably won’t remember this, but….” He was right. I didn’t remember. But it reminded me why taking time to listen is important.
— A “Happy Boss’s Day” card from a former colleague and dear friend that began, “I think Boss’s Day is hokey at best,” but she reminded me of how much I dislike the word “boss” and then penned an overly flattering but deeply touching message. It reminded me that good leadership is about relationships.
— A letter from a woman I never met thanking me for a sermon that in the grace and mystery of God somehow brought a bit of healing to her broken heart. It was a humble reminder that, as one of my seminary professors liked to say, “God can hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” (Like me.)
— A copy of church historian Martin Marty’s Context newsletter from 25 years ago citing a feature I had written as a young journalist about Baptists and the Ku Klux Klan. It was a reminder that journalism is a worthy vocation and a high calling.
I recall these items from memory. Truth is, I haven’t been able to find the file folder since we converted the one-room apartment at the back of our detached garage into an office when I became executive director of Associated Baptist Press nearly three years ago. Some Saturday I need to launch another search for it because there will certainly come a time when I will need to pull it out again.
I doubt that keeping a “Keepers” file qualifies as a bona fide spiritual practice, but I commend it to you. It beats a pick-me-up bouquet from FTD anytime.
Unless you are my wife.