Where Would We Be Without Andy?
Today is Andy's birthday. It's an occasion worth celebrating not because of his age (none of my business), but because his birth is worth celebrating. His existence is worth celebrating because he is one of those rare people that truly makes my world a better place just by being in it.
I've known Andy all my life. Or at least he's been around an in my life since I was born. I only really got to know him within the past 20 years or so. To the average person that might seem like a long time, but considering that Andy has been working at my church for over 50 years, that's just a drop in the bucket.
Andy is our sexton. Not a word in the common vocabulary. It is often used interchangeably with custodian. Often defined as an officer of a church, congregation, or synagogue charged with the maintenance of its buildings and/or the surrounding graveyard, what I found interesting is that the world sexton is derived from the medieval Latin sacristanus meaning "custodian of sacred objects” That is a perfect descriptor of Andy, as he cares for sacred objects, which includes not just a building and the things in it, but the people of the congregation, the neighborhood and the surrounding townships. He is truly the guardian, protector, and by proxy of his tenure, historian of the church and the community at large.
He's been inextricably tied to the church since he was a boy, when he ALONE took responsibility for breaking a church window after playing ball on the church lawn with friends. (He will point out that he's not the one who actually threw the ball that broke the window.) It must have been pretty frightening as a boy approaching the pastor, confessing and offering what money he had (fifty cents) to pay for the repair. It also shows what character Andy has; something that I hope rubs off on everyone who meets and knows him.
What does he do that is so special? Nothing and EVERYTHING. But if I had to cite a few things that stand out (and I'm purposely limiting this list or else it would go on and on and on...):
- He is present. I've never known him to be late (although it must happen on occasion). Whatever he is doing, he is focused on the task at hand, no matter what that task may be. No task is too large and no task seems too small. ("Back in the day" one of his duties included emptying and cleaning the ashtrays in the church. Can you imagine SMOKING in church?) He keeps things running and running well.
- He is dependable. If he says he'll do something, be somewhere, etc., have no worries. His word is his bond.
- He is calm. I'm sure something must rattle him, but I've never seen it. There may be chaos going on around him, but he is the calm in the storm. (I can't tell you how relieved I was to see him when he picked my husband and I up at Penn Station in September 2001. Train was the only way to get home from Florida and we'd been traveling for over 24 hours. His calm demeanor when we finally arrived in Newark took a weight off of me.)
- He is honest. (Just think about that broken church window.)
- He is slow to anger. Actually, I don't ever think I've seen him angry. It must happen. (Maybe I should ask his children or grandchildren...on the other hand maybe I should just keep my nose out of it!) There is rarely a time that I see him without a smile on his face.
- A great sense of humor. I don't know if he's always had it or if he's developed it after 50+ years of working with a wide variety of people in the same setting. He knows how to find the lighter side. I always walk away from Andy feeling happy, or at the very least better than I did prior.
- He is kind and caring. I remember the first time I brought my son to church. He was only a few weeks old and I was an EXTREMELY nervous mother. I purposely went a little late and wanted a parking spot near the door so I could make a quick escape if needed. I parked in "Andy's" spot. (It's now marked as such with a sign, but I don't think it officially was back then. Everyone just knew his car belonged there.) He immediately came out to meet me and help me. (You never go anywhere with a newborn without a TON of "stuff.”) When I think back, what a perfect introduction to the church for my son! (Even if he won't remember it.)
Happy Birthday Andy! I'm so glad that you are a part of my life. (I bet that everyone who knows him would say the same.)
The world needs more Andys. If we all tried to be a little bit more like him and/or follow his example, surely the world WOULD be a better place.