Friday, May 23, 2008

The Value of Scholarship

Part of a pastor's job is to study.  I mean books and journal articles, and Biblical commentaries and theology and . . . stuff.  I like that part of my job very much.  As I prepare for my duties as a commissioner at General Assembly, studying has consumed slightly more of my time than usual. 
I hope (and believe) that the payoff for the congregation will come down the line.   In the meantime, I haven't been getting out of the office all that much.
But a couple of weeks ago, while visiting the hospital, I had an encounter that reminded me that "scholarship" is not a universally appreciated vocation.  It happened when I noticed that the BloodMobile was parked at the entrance to Carle.  Now, I'd given blood in January (annual meeting day) in Philo.  Literally.  I gave blood.  But now it was May, and time that I could give again, so I climbed aboard and bared my vein.  
The woman who was taking the blood made the usual chit-chat with me.  I know that they are trained to do that so that the donor stays nice and relaxed.  And I appreciate it.  Giving blood is very easy, but I don't like to think about it while I'm doing it.  
So our conversation starts with the Central Illinois earthquake and quickly moves to other earthquake zones.  I volunteer that my son lives in Los Angeles, where temblors are relatively frequent.  She asks, "What does he do in LA?"  
I answer, "He's getting his Ph.D at UCLA."
She says, "Oh wow!  What's his field?"
I say, "English Literature."
She frowns, just a bit.  "What's he going to do when he gets out?"
"He's going to be a college professor."
She nods and thinks for a moment.  Clearly, this answer has challenged her extensive repertoire of optimistic responses.  "Well" she finally says sympathetically as she pats my hand.  "There's really nothing wrong with that." 
Which cracked me up.  'Cause I could tell she thought there wasn't really all that much  right with it either.   

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