It’s The People, Stupid!

This morning I have remnants of delicious exhaustion.

I asked a few friends to gather Memorial Day and celebrate an all-day Italian feast. Our location was “off the grid” at the rustic but elegant lodge, arbor and organic gardens on the stunning 2,000 acres of [email protected] Cove near Winchester, Tennessee. Nordeck and Mary Claire Thompson created and own Round Cove and are the quintessential hosts.

I volunteered to cook a seven course meal from scratch for 25 people – a task never attempted by this novice culinary artist. The most people for which I had previously cooked was 10. Believe me, there is quite a difference. A relatively unfamiliar kitchen in the wilderness. When you forget something, it requires an hour round trip. You get the picture.

As everyone arrived, we somehow felt the day would be special. But I don’t think any of us dreamed it would turn out to be one of those rare magical days that occur only a few times in one’s life.

It wasn’t the food (and drink), although if I do say so myself, it was really great.

It wasn’t the location, although it was perfect.

It wasn’t the weather, which was very fickle.

It was the people.

I told myself again this morning. “It was the people, stupid, it was the people.”

Even in the busyness of cooking, sweating, worrying, preparing, and serving, I watched everyone talking and laughing and enjoying…each other. Everyone jumped in and helped. Our hosts’ daughter, Kathryn, freshly graduated from college a few days before, took the responsibility of three of the courses and totally outdid herself. She, her siblings and college buddies reveled in helping prepare the feast and decorating with fresh flowers.

Other friends cut tomatoes for hours, rolled out fresh pasta and raviolis, baked fresh breads, washed dishes, trudged through the mud and rain undaunted and by faith prepared the outdoor tables in the garden for the main courses. (Their faith was rewarded, as we enjoyed the last four courses outdoors, rain-free, until just as we finished and stood up, the rain began again).

It was like the best of Italy in America. The lodge, deck, porches and gardens were filled with family and friends laughing, eating and drinking. A sacramental experience.

As I cooked, I learned that Caroline was trying out for volleyball the next day, her sister Claire was traveling in Spain, college student Brittney had recently been to South Africa and had tried the wines there, about a great restaurant and chef in Athens from Kathryn, that Perry, Ga is called the armpit of the south by some – but not by its residents, how the wife of my friend Johnny who died last week was doing from my friend David, that friends Carl and Nordeck share many common interests, a new song and a joke from Les, about college life from Nick, that Mallory was 19 and the sister of Christopher, who was in Asia and is an aspiring writer, and with whom I had coffee once at Merridees, that Patsy Clairmont is a chick magnet, discussed a new book about wine called The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, and that is only the beginning.

It wasn’t about the food and drink, it was about the people and their stories.

Upon evaluating thirty years in the pastoral ministry during a recent sabbatical, I realized that it wasn’t the music celebrities I was fortunate enough to work with, it wasn’t the Grammy award-winning band mates, it wasn’t achieving one of the most coveted jobs in my profession, and it wasn’t about the thousands of people who flocked to hear us sing and play each weekend.

It was about people named Michael, Rebecca and Billy Ray who are real people with insecurities just like me and you. It was about the hang in the green room with the band between services eating Cracker Barrel biscuits and hearing about each others lives. It was about staff birthdays, get-togethers and retreats, not the endless staff meetings. It was about lunches and coffees getting to know the people in the church and community, not about the adrenaline high of the stage and thousands of people.

America and our fair city of Franklin are not great because of government and laws and police enforcement – on the contrary, they are great because of their people. Oh sure, there will always be lazy people who would rather sit on their porch all day and collect government money than work, people who choose stealing over honesty, and people who have been mentally, physically and emotionally damaged by abuse and neglect. And for those people, we need government, laws and the police, I suppose. But only to a minimum.

Because it’s not about bigger government, bigger churches and bigger social programs. It’s not about bigger buildings and bigger laws. It’s not even about me cooking lots of wonderful Italian food.

It’s the people.

It’s about the people.

Jesus obviously knew this and chose to spend the majority of his short life with people. He reprimanded Martha for not understanding this principle. On the other hand, he praised her sister Mary for practicing this simple ideal. And he saved his most scathing reprimands for the excessive rule makers and entitled leaders who valued programs and systems over people.

It’s the people, stupid. (I’m sure Jesus didn’t say stupid, that word is just for my benefit.)

It’s the people. Or, as they would say in Italy…

E’ il popolo, stupido!

What say you? People or programs?

How is your community, church, family doing in this area?

How about you?

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34 Responses to “It’s The People, Stupid!”

  1. Well said, Randy. Way too many times we miss the people for the programs. Even then, we miss a lot of people that aren’t pre-programmed in our lives, too. So many opportunities to bless with even a friendly compliment that we miss going through the chaos of the day.
    .-= Jason´s last blog ..The happy ending sells =-.

  2. So true!!! Great post!

  3. I really like this article, although not too long, it could start a conversation that could go on for an eternity. One comment I would like to make is that people think they have a lot of friends just because they do on Facebook or have a lot of followers on Twitter. It’s not about that, it’s about REAL people. I really do like this post (as I already said), I’m just saying that when you say people you are referring to real people if I am correct, not friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter.

  4. Wow. I had to stop and evaluate. I’m afraid I don’t have much “community” any more. Let me correct I have many lovely people I am loved and adored by and whom I love and adore but face to face time with some is an impossibility. They may live in other countries or even other states. But my face to face community time is just not what it used to be. I am really missing that. Some circumstances in life have prevented some of it. I do work, I have a lovely job and work with lovely people an am thankful for that community. However, what you described above is very limited right now. I miss that. Thank you for the reminder. It’s up to me to go get that. It is about the people. Thank you again Randy for opening up another corner of the closet known as my heart.
    .-= Carol Asher´s last blog ..Did I just think that? =-.

  5. Nail meet the hammer. Beautifully put Randy. I live for those moments with people. I’m not really a quality time guy in the love language department, but I love nothing more than a house full of friends and family filled with stories, laughter and love.

  6. It was a privilege to be there, Randy. As I said to you via email, this was one of my top days of all time. And you are right, it wasn’t the location or the food—both of which were fabulous. It was the people. I am so grateful for the hours you put into creating this extraordinary memory.
    .-= Michael Hyatt´s last blog ..Question #6: Which is Most Important—Mission, Core Values or Vision? =-.

  7. Excellent thoughts, Randy.

    This year for the first time ever (stupid, inattentive me) the words of my church’s liturgy and memorial day connected like never before and my overwhelming thoughts for the day were, “This is my body which is for you. Do this unto my memorial” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it unto my memorial.”

    It IS about the people, specifically the people that comprise the body of Christ. As I look around me during the Eucharist and “discern the body of Christ” in my neighbors, I remember the goodness of Yahweh towards His people in giving us each other. We share each other’s joy. We bear one another’s burdens. We welcome children into the world, celebrate the marrying off of older children, and bury our dead…as the body of Christ. What an honor!

    • @Derek, Yes!! I love Alexander’s Schmemann’s take on your thoughts in his book “For The Life of the World.” You have hit the nail on the head, Derek.

  8. I was talking to one of my daughters who was lamenting the fact that she doesn’t have many friends, true deep friends, who “get her” who are from her “tribe.”

    I had just come home from the magnificent day at Round Cove and I suggested to her, “You have to step out and take initiative. You can’t wait for the friends to come up to your door step. You have to create experiences which not only bring old friends together, but which actually create new friendships.”

    For example, so many of my best friends are people whom I have met, or gotten reaquainted with, at your home. Nordeck and Mary Claire, Spence, Matt, Ken, Diane, on and on. You took the initiative, friendships were birthed and deepened.

    A friend once told me, “Remember the passage in the Bible which says, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do to you.’? It doesn’t just mean be nice so others will be nice to you. It means, … what do you wish people would do for you? Invite you over? Spend hours over a dinner and delicious wine talking about all the wonderful, meaningful or difficult things in life? Then you do that for someone else. You do for others what you would have them do for you. Then all are blessed.”

    Thanks for blessing me. May I do so for you.

  9. Great post Randy!
    I seem to often need to reflect and remember that important truth.
    I must admit that the food and drink often draw me in (I love a great meal) but what really makes it great is the company that it is enjoyed with.
    You made me wish I was with you all :)
    .-= Ron Swanson´s last blog ..ronswanson: I’m at R & D’s Sandwich Factory (1132 North Riverside Avenue, Medford). http://4sq.com/bBK3T6 =-.

  10. People are the most important entities on the earth. God wholeheartedly loves each and every one of us, and I try to keep that reality in mind. I’m glad you had a wonderful time–may there be many more for you.
    .-= patriciazell´s last blog ..#44 THE RETURN OF CHRIST: THE CAST, PART TWO =-.

  11. John Ballenger June 2, 2010 at 20:28

    Thanks for this great reminder Randy! Blessings.

  12. People. Relationships.

    It is the one thing I have been craving more in my life lately than enaything.

    So much of my life has been spent showing people the person I think they want to see. Being the person I think they want me to be in order to gain acceptance.

    The thing I have learned over the last few years is that I want people that will accept me for me. The screwed up, failure of a Godly man that I am sometimes.

    I want relationships. Mentors. People I can share struggles with. People I can rejoice with. People I can give advice to and gain wisdom from.

    I crave a weekend like the one you described like a drought stricken ground craves water.

  13. Brilliant post, Mr. Elrod, and a lovely reminder. It’s about people– it’s about fellowship, it’s about community. It’s about the church being the church, whether it includes all believers or only one. It’s about doing life together– figuring it out as you go, sipping fine wines and savoring flavors. Eating isn’t the best part of the meal in my opinion, it’s the creation of it. I’ve had some of the best, and I dare say life altering conversations, over a cutting board with friends and family.
    Thank you for helping me remember!
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..A Heart for Achile =-.

  14. Beautiful post. Such truth. Three years ago a few people gathered to watch LOST and we turned into the tightest knit tribe. We cook gourmet meals, talk for hours and then watch our favorite show. When it was over, we felt like we had already lived the finale in our own group simply because #lostcommunitygroup was not really about watching LOST, it was about us. Being together. Living life side by side. Not facing anything alone. And eating good food, of course. :) Despite the end of the show, we’re still meeting, and we have no plans to stop any time soon.

  15. I made the same comment to my pastor this morning. We spent the weekend with some of our best friends in the world. I learned that for 4 days, their back deck was the most redemptive spot in the universe.

  16. Randy Smith June 3, 2010 at 15:31

    Brilliant!!!!!!!!

  17. Randy,

    Your heartfelt blogpost brought tears to my eyes! I feel the very same way about the very dear friends, and even family I spend time with from time to time. It is the people, their lives, their stories – our relationships!

    We all want to be loved, enjoyed, have friends that we can do meaningful things with! We must not put it off! Sometimes that means we have to be the one making the call (again) or planning a party, bringing people together just like you did! Some have a gift for that – I think you do!

    Thank you for sharing your story! It was endearing and a good reminder that God has given us all things to enjoy – especially people!

    Robin

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