I Have (Next to Nothing) to Fear

HandgunLast fall, I was at a party with friends when the topic of Ferguson came up. The conversation was less about race and more about cops. I made the point that cops should be trained to use their guns to protect themselves and others, yes, but not to riddle people with bullets. Maybe I’m naïve, but I would think that of all the people in the world, policemen, along with soldiers, would be the ones who most effectively know how to use firearms. I said, “If I were a cop and felt threatened, I wouldn’t shoot to kill.” One of my friends said, “And that’s why we don’t want you to be a cop.” He’s right. You don’t want me to be a cop.

I don’t own a gun. So shoot me. As someone who doesn’t own a gun, I’m sure I’m a minority in my neighborhood, which maybe puts me in danger, but I don’t feel like I’m in danger (despite the fact I happen to know perfectly well that there’s a woman who lives about 1/4 mile down the street who sometimes gets high and randomly shoots bullets out her back door). I’ve been all over this country and to many different parts of this world and have never felt the need for a gun. I’ve lived in New York City, a place I know some people are scared to set foot in, and I didn’t feel the need to own a gun there. There are people in this world who need guns: hunters, soldiers, police officers, National Park rangers, those living on wildlife preserves in Africa (like in the book The Elephant Whisperer, which I recently listened to), those who own convenience stores or other places likely to be targets of robberies. I am not one of them.

The main reason I don’t own a gun is that I don’t believe in killing, not even in self defense. I’d rather just let someone kill me than to have to live with the knowledge that I’d killed someone else. Since I don’t believe in killing, it makes no sense for me to own something designed for the sole function of killing or threatening to kill.

I know that the number one reason most people in America own guns is for protection. We’re a fearful nation, and I guess people are convinced that they are highly likely to be attacked and/or shot by someone else and that the only way to prevent this is to own a gun. I choose not to be fearful. Instead, I look at the statistical likelihood of my being a victim; I use my head to keep myself out of harm’s way (you won’t catch me wandering around in secluded areas, drunk, after midnight, or accepting rides from or opening my door to strangers); and I accept the fact that if I’m meant to be some fluke, someone in my demographic who dies from a bullet wound, well, then so be it.

There are other reasons I don’t own a gun:

1. I have a friend who, along with her husband, suffers from severe depression. She once said to me, only half-jokingly, “I doubt either of us would still be alive if we owned guns.” I’m glad they don’t own guns. Anyone who’s studied psychology knows that the most effective way to turn an attempted suicide into a successful suicide is to use a gun. In 2010, according to a Pew Research Center study, 19,392 gun deaths out of a total of 31,672 (that’s 61%, well over half) were suicides. Because depression is unpredictable, and I never know whom I might invite to spend a night in my home who is depressed, I don’t like the notion of keeping an easy means to suicide around the house.

2. I don’t trust myself. I’m accident prone and forgetful. Having a gun in my home would be like having a venomous snake in my home. If someone I love were to get bitten, I’d have only myself to blame for owning a venomous snake. As I’ve said before, if you want to have a venomous snake in your home, fine, but I have enough things to worry about without having to worry about someone dying because a bullet was accidentally shot from a gun I own.

3. Although protecting myself from gun-wielding killers might seem like a good reason to own a gun (if I could wave it at them without actually having to shoot them), I know that I am highly unlikely to be attacked and killed by someone with a gun. There were 11,078 gun homicides in the U.S. in 2010 (Pew study) when the number of deaths that year were 2,465,936 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). That means that less than 1% of the people who died in the U.S. in 2010 died from gunshot wounds. Even if you look at the number of all homicides (gun and non-gun), the number is 14, 748 (FBI), still less than 1%.  If someone told you you had less than a 1% chance of falling down a flight of stairs and dying, would you avoid stairs? I think not, which is why I’m not worried about protecting myself from someone with a gun. There are a few other factors that work in my favor, making me even less likely to die at the hands of some homicidal maniac: my age, my gender, the fact that I’m not the victim of domestic violence, the fact that I’m not a drug addict, not in a gang, and, sad to say, the fact that I’m white.

4. Another tempting reason to have a gun is to protect myself from a psycho serial killer, one who is intent on raping and torturing me before killing me. Tempting, that is, until I consider the likelihood of that happening. I know if you watch any TV or read any popular books, magazines, and websites, it seems like the U.S. is just teeming with psychopathic serial killers waiting to break into your home to torture and kill you (who, incidentally, seem to choose to do so when you’re asleep in bed, pouncing on you before you have time to grab a gun, so what good is that gun gonna do?), but according to the Radford University Serial Killer Information Center (yes, there is such a place), the average number of serial killer victims per year in the U.S. is less than 130. And I thought the chances of my being shot and killed were low! Since I’m not a drug addict or a prostitute, who are more likely to be serial killer victims, my chances of being such a victim are minuscule. I am far, far more likely to get hit by lightning (1000 deaths per year according to the National Lightning Safety Institute). I’d be better off carrying around a lightning rod than a gun, if I’m going to worry about protecting myself from highly unlikely events.

5. As a woman, according to data from the 2000 FBI Supplementary Homicide report, I am five times more likely to be killed by an intimate acquaintance than I am by a stranger. I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to go around trying to protect myself from my intimate acquaintances. Were I to own a gun, I doubt I’d bother to get it out if someone I know and love were to come knocking at my door. Therefore, it would only be good for protecting me if some complete stranger, with the intent to kill me, were to come knocking at my door, and we all know how likely (see point #3) that is to happen.

6. Handguns are expensive. Wow! They seem to start at $125 and go up from there. I never buy the  cheapest model of anything, so if I were to buy one, I’d probably spend what seems to be an average price, around $350. Do you know how many books I could get for that? (And I bet with a little target practice, I could use a book as a weapon. Hit someone in the jugular with War and Peace and he’s going down.) Better yet, think how many hungry children I could feed with that money, or how many women living in shelters to escape domestic violence I could help feed and clothe.

7. I am not afraid of government raids. Being afraid of a government raid in America is like being afraid of being hit by a meteor. Could it happen? Well, in the sense that anything could happen, sure, but to allow myself to be afraid of something so unlikely? Didn’t we use to institutionalize people for being that kind of paranoid? Besides, even if I were, what good is my gun (or let’s be optimistic and say guns, one for each hand. Maybe even one for each hand and foot if I’ve managed to learn to sit on my butt and shoot with my toes) going to do against the U.S. Marine Corps?

8. To my knowledge, I don’t know a soul who has ever managed to avoid being a victim by using a gun (if you are reading this and are such a person, please let me know). I do know one person who happened to be home when someone broke into her apartment, who reacted angrily and wasn’t hurt. She didn’t have a gun. That’s anecdotal evidence, I know, but compare it to the number of people I’ve known, during my lifetime, who’ve died of cancer or heart failure or who’ve been seriously injured or killed in car accidents, and you can see why I might be more concerned about those things than about protecting myself with a gun.

And there we have it. Do I worry about protecting myself from danger and disease? Yes. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. I wear my seatbelt. I exercise for strength and balance. I try to eat a healthy diet. I get yearly physicals. Do I want to waste my time, energy, and money protecting myself from things that are highly unlikely to happen to me? No, life is too short for that.

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The Classics Club’s Question #31

Classics Club RenoirWhat about modern classics? Pick a book published since 2000 and say why you think it will be considered a “classic” in the future.

(Every month, the Classics Club creates its own meme by giving its members a question to answer. I’m relatively new to the club, so I’m beginning here with Question #31. I may go back and answer some past questions at some point in time.)

This is a tough one. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few discussions with friends and family members about “The Decline and Fall of Great Literature”. The majority of these discussions have revolved around the question, “What, if anything, written since 1950 will people still be reading 100 years from now?” The answer can’t really be “nothing”, as tempting as it is to say that, because, of course, some books will survive, just as they have through all the different eras. Still, I’ve had a hard enough time with that one but can come up with works like 100 Years of Solitude, as well as books by the likes of John Irving and Anne Tyler, if we’re looking at American writers.

Here, though, the Classics Club, always willing to challenge us in new and different ways, tells us to forget the 20th century. I can’t fall back on The Cider House Rules. I have to come up with something written post-1999 — an era in which we’ve witnessed “The Decline and Fall of the Publishing Industry”, when publishers decided to do such stupid things as providing companion web sites to books and toying with the idea of letting readers write their own endings to books (as if any Real Reader ever wanted to put down a book to go explore a web site or to have to write an ending. The latter is what writers are paid to do, not readers). It’s also been an era of shoddy editing and proofreading (because, of course, publishing companies have to pay to create web sites, and a great way to do that is to lay off such inessential staff members as production editors, outsourcing their jobs to people for whom English is a second language. Notice all the typos and grammatical errors in my blog posts? We writers — even those of us who were once editors — need good editors, because it’s so hard to edit our own stuff), so if you’re someone with an editorial mind, you find yourself driven crazy by the most basic typos and grammatical errors that show up in so many published books these days.

It’s been an era in which we’ve seen many trends embraced by authors, not the least of which is “my clever version of post-modernism.” This means you’ll be hard-pressed to find a book that doesn’t play around with narrative voice, leaving the reader wondering, “Who the hell is speaking now?” or tense, leaving the reader wondering, “When did this happen? Yesterday? Right now?” And it’s been an era in which authors (or is it their publishers?) have decided that the “freshest” thing to do just might be to mix media. Let’s see what happens if part of this story is told via Excel spreadsheet! Let’s tell this story via alternating chapters of prose and collages made from magazine images!

Finally, we also must try to trick the reader and have some huge, unforeseen plot twist halfway through the book. You thought that was eleven-year-old Sarah, the oldest child of the family telling the story? It’s actually Sarah the Dog, and her younger brothers are Bill the hamster and Thad the cat. You thought Rob was waxing poetic about his wife Kelly? He was actually going on about his husband Kelly. You thought you were right there along with Detective Solvit, trying to figure out who’d tortured and mutilated the beauty queen, only to discover that the reason he’s so efficient at piecing together the crime is that he’s not Detective Solvit at all. He’s the psychopathic murderer.

Yes, I read this stuff (I’m a librarian after all), but I so often find myself needing to return to Trollope or Twain or Chandler, if only to escape all the typos and grammatical errors. This means my knee-jerk reaction to the fine folks running The Classics Club was “Nothing.” Again, though, that’s a ridiculous answer. Certainly, some of the books being published today will be embraced by future generations, to be studied, read, and loved. We have some authors who are taking hold of post-modernism and post-post-modernism and doing them right. We have new genres that are working, and some writers who are turning old genres into new classics. In fact, when I began to go back through the works I’ve read, I began to discover I’ve read quite a few of these future classics. I found it hard to choose just one, which means that this book curmudgeon is going to give you more than one (I hope that’s not cheating the meme). I could probably give you ten, but I will stick to five. Here they are, alphabetical by title.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Say what you will about Stephen King. He will be read and studied by future generations. He’s a man who brought the horror genre to whole new levels in the late 20th century, and he’s also a great candidate for “books into films” studies. 11/22/63 was a different sort of book for him — more sci-fi/fantasy than horror (although those three often overlap), but it was the book that got the snobbiest of critics to acknowledge (however grudgingly) that King was worth our attention. For my part? I’ve always loved King for his imagination and scare factor, and I was skeptical of this “un-horror” story, but I fell right into it, loved every minute of its “what if” challenge.

& Sons by David Gilbert

The late twentieth-century saw a decline in WASP literature and rightly so. We needed to make room for all the fabulous multiculturalism that’s been introduced to us since 1970, but we need not throw the baby out with the bath water, no matter how fond Americans seem to be of doing so. It was about time someone gave us a new spin on the WASP novel, and David Gilbert was the man to do it. This one is a fine example of such (with a nod to J.D. Salinger, since it features a Salinger-like writer). This love letter to New York City is also a 21st-century exploration of the father-son relationship, a hot topic in literature since, well, forever. There’s a bit of a sic-fi twist thrown in for good measure, which I enjoyed, but what kept me reading was the whole question of what makes and breaks father-son bonds. I’m quite sure Gilbert is going to go on to publish other important works.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway

I was impressed by the pure poetry of this novel, the way Galloway interwove music with words. It was not an easy read, as the topic is devastating, but it was a powerful, historic one. If you’ve forgotten all about Sarajevo, you need to read this book as a reminder of what it was, how horrific it was, and as a reminder of the power of the arts to redeem us all. The fact that it gave us a female soldier, a rarity in literature until recently, is another reason it will survive (as an early example of such characters).

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Full disclosure, I haven’t actually finished reading this one yet, so I may change my mind, but, thus far, I am extremely impressed. Mitchell has proven that there are some writers out there who have turned post-modernism into an exact science. He’s an incredible writer, able to give a fresh voice to so many tried and true writing methods. He’s clever, not for the mere sake of being clever, like so many writing today, but rather, I gather, because he just can’t help himself, and also because he applauds us readers for being who we are, relishing our enjoyment of reading.

Fun Home by Allison Bechdel

This one will go down in history as an early example of graphic memoir. I loved it both for Bechdel’s drawing style and for her writing style, not to mention her interesting story. She has proven here that there’s a reason for the graphic art form –when the right pictures really can do a subject much more justice than a long page of prose, especially when combined with a few words. She’s also proven that sometimes blending media, when it isn’t forced or being used to demonstrate how clever someone is (or thinks she is), can work beautifully. This one will also probably make history for being one of the first memoirs to look candidly at homosexual relationships.

So, there you have it. Five classics for you to get reading now, so that in 40 years you can say, “Oh, yeah, I knew that one was going to last.” In the meantime, tell me what future classics I ought to be reading now.

Postscripts to Posts

P.S.

It’s inevitable. I write a blog post and, within a few weeks, things change, or I think of something else I should’ve said, or someone tells me something, either in a comment or in real life, that changes everything. So, today, I’m going to add some postscripts to some of my posts.

“5 Things You Will Never Hear Me Say”

Okay, I admit it. I was at work one day, and before I knew what I was saying, someone asked me about something, and I replied, “You could probably Google that.” Shame on me, I know! But it rarely happens, and I noticed when I was spending time with my siblings last weekend that they don’t use “Google” as a verb either, so maybe my abhorrence of it is inherited?

“Books I Won’t Read”

When Bob and I were in Maine over New Year’s, we went to Bookmarcs, a place we always make sure to visit when in Bangor. There, I found this lovely little book that fits perfectly in my purse for carrying around to read whenever I find myself stuck waiting somewhere. It’s by Alan Bennett, whom I love. I don’t know why I didn’t think that a book called Smut would have graphic sex scenes in it, but probably it was because I was sure Bennett was using the word in some clever sort of  ironic way. He, of course, was, but now that I’m halfway through the first of these two stories, and have discovered graphic sex scenes, I have to admit that I haven’t stopped reading. So far, though, they seem to be pretty central to the story, so I’m not really having to eat my own words, because I did note in that post that if the scenes were important to the story, I will read such a book. I’ll let you know when I finish the whole thing what my final verdict is (see “Pages: Books in Brief”, coming sometime in the next month).

“Props for Two Companies Doing Customer Service Right”

I have to add another company here. I even have to apologize to that company, because it’s one of the ones I had in mind when I was complaining about the warranty process many companies have. The company is Lifeproof. Lifeproof makes cell phone cases that keep klutzes like me, who drop their phones all the time, from having shattered phones. They also keep your cell phone dry. These cases are expensive, and the only reason I have one is that Verizon (a company whose customer service I won’t praise, BTW) screwed up with an offer they gave us last year when we were buying new phones, so they gave us these cases half price as part of our deal. Filling out the warranty for my Lifeproof case was a royal pain, and I was really upset when it started to fall apart. I couldn’t get the headphone jack protector to screw in anymore, and then the case started popping out of its rubber casing. I was sure when I got in touch with the company they’d tell me they were sorry, but I’d done something wrong when I filled out the warranty, and they couldn’t help me. Instead, I got an email back from them immediately, telling me they would handle it. Within 24 hours, they had shipped me a brand new case, no questions asked. So, you can add them to the list of “Great Companies.”

“May I Be Boring and Talk about Serial?”

My obsession with “Serial” has died down, although I do still find people who haven’t listened to it and tell them they must  gently suggest they might enjoy it. Since I wrote that post, though, there’s been an interesting interview with Jay here. I still don’t know what I think of him. He could be a sociopath, but maybe he’s just a guy who was scared and got dragged into something completely against his will. I’m hoping we’ll get some more answers in the case now that the Maryland Court of Appeals has agreed, this summer, to hear arguments in Adnan’s case. The whole story is still just awfully suspicious to me. it does seem to me that both boys were in on something together, but how and why, exactly? Also, Jay seems not to be able to remember some pretty basic stuff, yet, other stuff, he can describe in vivid detail. That doesn’t make sense to me.

“What Does a Minister Do All Week”

First of all, I need to thank two people here. My cousin Katharine decided she wanted to share that post with her church, which she did, but she suggested it needed an image (probably all my posts do. It does look odd when I link them on FB, and they come up with blank squares, so I’m adding an image to this one that technically has nothing to do with this post). I was trying to find something when my friend Dominique posted the perfect thing on her own FB page. That’s how I got the image. Also, I thought last November was the first time I’d done that sort of tracking of Bob’s time, but yesterday, I was sorting through some old stuff of mine and found I’d done the same thing back in May 2012. Seems he and I have been having these calm discussions for some time now (not that I’m the least bit resentful or anything…).

The Queen’s Latest Meme

Back in the day, when I was named the Queen o’ Memes, I regularly posted memes on my blog and tagged other bloggers to participate. We had great fun with those memes, which were much more creative than most of what gets dubbed a “meme” on Facebook these days. Ms. Musings was a happy participant back then, and she recently suggested I might make a little exercise of hers into a new meme. I liked the exercise, so I took the challenge.

She was at a workshop for her job, in which they were assigned some homework. One thing they had to do was to write up their visions and share them. They had to describe what the best six months of their lives would look like, as (she describes it) a sort of positive thinking/empowerment/take responsibility for your own life activity. It sounded like a fun challenge, because, like she, “I find people who make poor decisions and then whine about the consequences and act as if life has it in for them entirely punch worthy.” So, here’s my vision:

1. My home is finally decluttered, dejunked, and well-organized.

2. All the furniture I want to keep that needs repair or reupholstering has now been repaired and reupholstered, and because of #1 and #2, I now love my home instead of thinking of it as monumental tasks that never get done.

3. I have been writing every. single. day. for at least 2 hours a day and preferably 3. It doesn’t matter what: short stories, blog posts, chapters of novels, letters… The key is that I’m writing every day (the way Stephen King says I should).

4. I have been submitting works I’ve written for publication on a regular basis and have had at least one thing published somewhere (anywhere).

5. I have driven cross-country and back, staying with wonderful friends all along the way to the west coast and all the way back to the east coast.

That’s it. Let the six months begin!

Meanwhile, if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged. If you don’t have a blog, but you’re on Facebook, use the “Notes” section of that. What do your six best months look like?

What Does a Minister Do All Week?

pray for your pastor
Yet again, I recently met someone who asked what Bob does. And, yet again, we got that tiresome old joke about how a minister has such an easy job, only working on Sundays. I know it’s a joke. I know a sense of humor about all things is a good and healthy attribute to embrace, but I’m finding it harder and harder to laugh at that joke. Those of you who have ever visited Bob and me from out of town know how absurd it is. If it’s such an easy job, then why are so many ministers burning out?

Here are some staggering statistics for you: 50% of all ministers starting out today won’t last five years in the ministry, and only 10% of those who are ministers right now will actually retire from a job as a minister. There are whole websites devoted to the topic of ex-pastors and pastor burnout. I can’t read too many of the stories on those sites because they are just so, so sad.

One minister wrote something I read once in which he said that one of the main reasons ministers burn out so much is that we live in an age in which people feel entitled. They don’t think of their churches as places to honor and serve God but rather as places meant to serve them. They pay their dues and expect to get something for that. The problem is, they all want something different, and it’s hard for a minister to deal with, say, 200 people, half wanting things one way, a quarter wanting them another, and a quarter wanting something altogether different. Ministers are consistently put into no-win situations, which may be why 70% of them are constantly fighting depression.

I’m not convinced that this entitlement is the biggest cause of pastor burnout, though. At our church (btw, Bob and I hate to say “our church” or, worse, “my church”, because it isn’t. It’s God’s church. But I use that terminology here to distinguish from other churches) I don’t think the majority of people feel so entitled (I’ve lived and gone to school in and worked in enough places to know there will always be entitled people in every crowd, but they’re not in the majority at our church). The members of this congregation are humble and loving and willing to serve, and yet I can still see how a minister might burn out even serving a church full of people like that. So much of what a minister does isn’t seen by those she serves. No one observes the suicidal person with whom he is on the phone for two hours. No one sees her helping the brother or grandchild or girlfriend of a church member, someone who doesn’t attend the church but whom the member has asked if she will help. No one sees how much time he spends, week after week, writing a sermon, practicing that sermon, and preparing the rest of the Sunday morning service. No one sees her studying book after book for the Sunday school class she is teaching or Bible study she is leading. No one is there on a Sunday night at 10:00 when someone calls and says, “I know it’s late, but I really need to talk. Could you please come over?”

Ministers are on-call 24/7. Like emergency room personnel, they are always in triage mode, forever having to figure out what most needs attention at any given time. This means that if they are truly loving and caring people (which we all hope they are), all but the very most important of administrative tasks are left languishing, which is why well-organized, intuitive church secretaries are God’s Chosen People (it would help if they could also possess a little ESP, as well, but God hasn’t granted them that gift. Instead, God gives them patience), but such tasks are also just about the only thing the majority of a minister’s congregation sees a minister doing. It’s understandable that people might think a minister doesn’t do much, especially if he has a good secretary, while the minister is actually feeling like he barely manages to keep his head above water, while always dealing with the worry that maybe he didn’t help someone quite enough. And if he’s a good minister, bent on keeping confidentiality, he has no one he can talk to about such worries — not even his spouse — except in the vaguest of ways.

When Bob first became a minister, I was surprised by how much time he spent working on the sermon. Surely, I thought, he’s spending way more time on that than most ministers do. Then, one of our friends posted an article about sermon-writing that noted the general rule of thumb for sermon preparation is one hour of prep for every minute preached. Wow! That means if a minister is writing sermons of average length in America (30-40 minutes according to statistics I can find), she is putting in what’s considered in other professions a full-time job (40-hour week) just writing sermons. Bob’s sermons are 20 minutes long, which would mean 20 hours a week. In 2012, Thom Ranier took a Twitter poll (not statistically significant but still interesting) and found that more than one out of five ministers spend 15 hours or more preparing sermons each week. If you’re so inclined, you can read more interesting information from ministers about sermon prep time here. Bob, in the early days, spent about 20 hours on sermons. Now he spends about 15 hours a week on sermon prep and writing. He practices each sermon three times before he gives it, so that’s about another hour for the sermon. He also writes his own prayers for the service, and picks hymns with our music director, so service prep every week takes somewhere between 16 and 17 hours.

My guess is that most ministers are like Bob, which means they can’t prepare for and write sermons while in the church office, where phones are ringing and people are talking, and they are getting interrupted in other ways. Office hours, for the most part, are spent on email, mail, meetings with individuals, and phone calls. Other ministers have also probably discovered that the best times to write without having to worry about being interrupted (unless there is some special church function going on) are Friday evenings and Saturdays. It seems people are busy with their own things on the weekends and are less inclined to call on the minister until Sunday. There’s another minister in our community who says he spends all day every Saturday writing his sermon, and a retired minister who sometimes attends our church who recently told me that he spent every vacation he took at the Jersey Shore planning sermons while his family was on the beach (I just bet his family loved that). Bob tends to split his sermon-writing up during the week (and he does a good deal of it when most people are in bed — again, because he’s less likely to be interrupted), but he typically finishes it on Saturday.

A couple of months ago, we were having one of these calm discussions of ours, and I said to Bob, “You never take a full day off. Ever. You put in at least 50 hours every week and sometimes as many as 80 hours.” He didn’t believe me. You may not, either. You may wonder when he puts in 80 hours. Well, add a funeral or a wedding (or both) to a work week, and that’s an extra sermon to write and extra visits to make and an extra service to conduct. This past Christmas, he had two funerals, a Sunday service, and two Christmas Eve services to do in 6 days. He barely slept that week. Luckily, the sermon for the Sunday service and one of the Christmas Eve services were both very short due to a cantata and a pageant.

Anyway, since Bob didn’t believe me when I complained kindly pointed out (by the way, lest you think I’m some sort of whiner, I am not alone. 80% of spouses feel that pastors are overworked) how many hours he puts in for work, I did something sneaky. I decided to track his time. For two weeks, I tracked, as best as I could (some of that time I wasn’t around, so he might have been doing stuff I didn’t record) what he was doing. Now I have some ammunition facts next time we argue calmly discuss this topic. This is what he did each day on top of sermon/service prep.

Bob’s Week Nov. 9 – 15 (rounded up or down to the nearest half hour)

Sunday Nov. 9th: two church services, teaching Sunday school, fellowship after church: 4 1/2 hours

Monday Nov. 10th: Office hours: 4 hours (included a pastoral counseling session)

Church-related phone calls (these are calls that are in addition to whatever were made/gotten in the                          office, and are outside of office hours): 1 hour

Tuesday Nov. 11th: Abbreviated office hours: 1 1/2 hours

Leadership team meeting: 2 hours

Worship committee meeting: 1 1/2 hours

Church-related phone calls (outside office hours): 1 1/2 hours

Wednesday Nov. 12th: Office hours: 3 1/2 hours

Thursday Nov. 13th: Visited church members: 2 hours

Office hours: 3 1/2 hours

Friday Nov. 14th : At emergency room with church member: 6 hours

Kick-off youth group lock-in: 2 hours

Saturday Nov. 15th: Morning shift of youth group lock-in: 5 hours

Peace witness meeting (community involvement expected of ministers): 2 hours

Total hours Nov. 9-15: 40 + 15 to prepare sermon + 1 to practice sermon = 56 hours

Bob’s Week Nov. 16 – Nov. 22

Sunday Nov. 16: One church service, congregational meeting, and 50-member luncheon: 4 hours

Visiting church member at hospital: 1 hour

Monday Nov. 17: Office hours: 3 1/2 hours

Tuesday Nov. 18: Presbytery meeting (all Presbyterian ministers attend Presbytery meetings): 9 hours, no office hours

Church-related phone calls (outside of office): 1 hour

Wednesday Nov. 19: Church-related phone calls (outside of office): 1 1/2 hours

Met with social worker to help person he’s been counseling: 3 hours

Abbreviated office hours (due to overlap of social worker meeting): 2 hours

Thursday Nov. 20: Member of congregation had surgery, went to hospital to wait with wife: 4 hours

Abbreviated office hours (due to time spent in hospital): 1 1/2 hours

Church-related phone calls (outside of office hours): 1/2 hour

Session (church board) meeting: 2 1/2 hours

Friday Nov. 21: Church-related phone calls and proofreading church bulletin (outside of office): 1 hour

Met with organizer of the church Christmas pageant: 1 hour

Saturday Nov. 22:  Church-related phone calls: 1 1/2 hours

This week, he also began his work on the Thanksgiving Eve sermon, because next week he has that           in addition to his regular Sunday services. He put in 7 hours on that.

Total hours Nov. 16 – 22 37 + 15 of regular sermon prep + 7 of Thanksgiving Eve sermon prep + 1 to practice sermon = 60 hours

So, there you have it. Two weeks in a minister’s life. They are quite typical. An easy job, right? Is it any wonder so many get burnt out, especially if they (as many claim) feel they don’t have any support or are constantly dealing with petty complaints? Bob’s not burnt out, and he gets support. Still, he also gets tired, and sometimes a little depressed by all his worries and concerns (as anyone with a conscience would). So do I. Next time you meet a minister, give her a hug. She probably needs it. While you’re at it, give the minister’s spouse a hug. We need them, too. And no jokes about only working on Sunday, please.