Most folks don’t remember the old television show, “Candid Camera”. It has run, on and off, in one form or another since 1948. That’s quite a run. There has been more than one incarnation of the show and multiple attempts to recreate its formula, most notably Ashton Kutcher’s lame “Punk’d”. Only the original, created and hosted by a fellow named Allen Funt, was the Real Deal.
The idea was to put people in awkward situations – almost always goofy artificial scenarios manipulated by the show’s producers – and film their reactions. One particular episode came to mind recently. Young people were given an aptitude test to determine what career best suited them. They were filmed as they received their unlikely and unwelcome results. One young man was informed that the vocation for which he was best suited was “shepherd”.
The crestfallen look on that poor soul’s face is indelibly etched into my memory. He probably came into the test with dreams of being an executive, teacher, or surgeon, only to find that his ideal future involved sleeping out in the field with sheep.
I bring this up because I also took an aptitude test of sorts this past week. Coincidentally, my result came back: shepherd. No hidden camera, no Allen Funt, and no desolation.
Actually, I was flattered.
This was a test to determine spiritual inclination. Surprisingly, this spiritual inventory revealed my temperament and gifting aligned with that of a pastor/shepherd. Kind of humbling, considering Jesus was called the Good Shepherd. “Good” is above my pay grade. Mediocrity is more my level. In fact, I’ve always considered mediocrity the one thing at which I excel.
Still, it’s a calling I’m comfortable with, even if I feel inadequate for it. Shepherds call people together, build relationships, and create a safe environment for their nurture. That certainly sums up my passion, if not my skills. Thus my penchant for community, as I’ve described so often in these virtual pages. (See here and here, for example.)
MS and community go hand in hand. It’s my opinion that support groups are a crucial part of overall well-being in MS or any other illness or state of suffering. AA is one of the most famous – for good reason – examples of the value of community. It’s hard to imagine AA working in groups of one. (“Hi, my name is Rick and… Hey, where is everyone??”)
The MS Society recognizes the importance of community. That’s why they sponsor resources like support groups and an online community. Today I realized that some of the greatest communal gatherings they offer are their fundraising events. On the surface, these events are meant to raise much-needed funds for research and the services to people who suffer with MS. The bedrock on which they rest, however, is the sense of community they create. We get involved because we’re attracted to people with the same motives and dedication.
Today I got a good sense of the sort of community that thrills me. I attended the MS Journey of Hope walk. Looking around at the group – people with MS, their families and friends, doctors and other medical professionals, and volunteers – the sense of oneness of purpose was palpable. My recent bike ride was exactly the same. In spite of the sober nature of the cause, at both sites the atmosphere was filled with hope and even joy.
Striving against a common enemy has given rise to many communities, not always for the betterment of society. The fight against MS, however, has created a strong and diverse alliance unified in compassion and purpose.
It’s the kind of thing that could just bring an end to the stinkin’ disease.