The late James Herriot (1916-1965) was author of such best sellers as All Creatures Great and Small. Herriot was a country veterinarian in England. In his books he tells stories of going about the English countryside treating animals of all kinds.
What is most interesting, however, is his description of the owners of those animals. He would describe in vivid detail what they looked like, how they talked, and, most importantly, their often quirky characteristics. It made you want to be there, to experience the visit with him, though often he found himself wading through weeds or trudging through manure to get to the animal needing treatment.
The people Herriot encountered in his rounds as a veterinarian are much the same people I encounter in my pastoral visits, just the names are different! There were James and Rose, both heavy set, mainly because Rose was such a good cook! At a church potluck I tasted her baked chicken, which was absolutely wonderful! I asked her for the recipe, thinking my wife and I could make it. The next Sunday she gave me the recipe, on three recipe cards! There must have been fifty steps to making that chicken dish! We never did make it.
There was Bill, a simple-minded man. He lived in a small trailer just down the street from the church. Bill had the annoying habit of sniffing, inhaling air in quick, short bursts. He loved pie so my wife baked him one and gave it to him packed in a pie box. He took the box, proceeded to tuck it sideways under his arm, and took it home! We never did find out the condition of the pie by the time he got home and opened the box.
Then there was Dick. He sat with his wife in the second pew to my right while I preached. Every Sunday, partway through the sermon, Dick would reach into his pocket, remove a piece of candy, and proceed to unwrap it from the cellophane packaging, making this loud crinkling sound as if he were stoking a small bonfire in his hands!
The people I serve! I just gotta love ’em! James Herriot’s description of the unique characters he came across as a veterinarian make for enjoyable reading. Thanks to him I find I can more easily move from annoyance to appreciation of the unique, peculiar, and sometimes downright odd people God’s called me to serve as pastor.