A FEW YEARS back, Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis and I did a talk together at Northwestern University. After the event, the line to see Jim was dozens of people long. They wanted him to sign their books, to offer encouragement on their new social justice projects, to meet their kids, to give pastoral advice on a problem they were having. Jim talked to each and every one of them, some for several minutes. It delayed our dinner by at least an hour.
As we were finally sitting down in the restaurant and tucking in to our salads, I asked Jim why he stayed for so long. Why not do what so many other public figures do—leave right after your part of the show is over?
“I am a preacher and a pastor,” he answered. “An important part of my vocation is spending loving time with individuals. The period right after a public talk is an excellent opportunity to do that.”
“Plus,” he added, with a twinkle in his eye, “listening to other people’s stories may be the best part of this work.”
I just hit the 10-year mark of running Interfaith Youth Core, and the 15-year point of my first involvement with interfaith work. I haven’t logged as many miles or given as many speeches as Jim, but my schedule tends in a similar direction. The image of him talking to all those young people after that event at Northwestern sticks in my mind every time I board an early flight or prepare for a day of workshops followed by a late-night keynote.