Expecting a smaller audience

In addition to reading books and articles and blog posts about chaplaincy and spiritual formation, I read about publishing books and writing for social media. In that reading, I hear the word “more” often.  More readers. More emails. More sales. More pages. I sometimes try little things to get more readers, more emails, more sales. I make links from my blog to my books. I post stories on Facebook about my email newsletter which is based on my blog.

It’s a thing called scaling. We want to scale up production, impact, significance, outreach. We want to have all of whatever that we can possibly have.

And sometimes I feel a little bit of failure when I don’t get more. I’ve never had a video go viral. My audience for a blog post attracted, well, nevermind. Because I’m falling into that justification and comparison trap.

I think you might fall into the trap of comparison, too. Actually, I know you do, because I’ve talked with you.

But here’s a lesson I’m learning in one part of my life that I think has application to many parts of my life: Chaplaincy doesn’t scale.

One day, I had a conversation with a couple. It was very sweet, very tear-provoking. All three of us knew that some day, inevitably, something is going to take over the patient’s brain. And when it does, there is nothing that can be done.

The conversation took time. And energy.

I imagine trying to scale that conversation, to bring in three or four other people from the same hallway facing some of the same things. I imagine going on Facebook live with the conversation, I imagine a webinar with this couple, where they tell their story and people ask questions and I tell them everything will be okay.

But I’m crying as I type these words. Because the intimacy of that moment would be completely destroyed, devastated, by anyone else in the space. There is a holy space created when we realize that we traveled, we were carried, we were called for years and miles to be with this person now. Our lives, and their lives, our learning and their suffering, our suffering and their learning are coming together in a specific geography at a specific time. Nothing can scale that moment.

I wrote three words to myself on the notepad I carry. Here. Now. You. My friends, a viral audience may be two people, if they are the ones who need your words and silence and presence. Sometimes the biggest impact we can have is by being as faithful as we can be and as present as we can be with the smallest audience there is: the person in front of us.


Before You Walk In Copyright © 2021 by Jon Charles Swanson. All Rights Reserved.

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