So you have to say it quickly. Get right to the point. A lot of us know the experience.
Say, for instance, that the teenager goes to camp. The week is wonderful, just what she hoped for. She meets new friends, feels her spirit come alive. On Saturday morning, when the minivans roll in, her parents greet her with a hug and say, "How was camp?" They give her thirty seconds or so to sputter a response. Then Dad looks at his watch and declares, "Time to go."
The staff at the mission volunteer site warned some of us about this a few years ago. Our team was mucking out houses afflicted by massive storms and flooding. It was an exhausting and exhilarating trip. On the last night, the staff asked, "How will you tell your story when you return? Think it through, because people who didn't take this trip will give you a mere few minutes to say it before their eyes glaze over and their minds move on elsewhere."
So how in the world could I reduce a wonderful sabbatical of three months into an elevator speech?
My brother and I were talking the other day. He said, "We would like to come down and see the pictures from some of your sabbatical journeys." Great, I replied with a smile, because we have about nine hundred of them.
"Pick about twenty," he said. Spot-on advice.
So that is what I am mulling over: The Elevator Speech, as I return to my church work. Let me try out a few sample speeches in preparation.
Question: How was your sabbatical?
- It was a tremendous three months of spiritual enrichment, with lots of time with loved ones and friends. Virtually all my sabbatical project goals were met and exceeded. I'm feeling well rested, and enthusiastic about getting back to work. And I am deeply grateful for the congregation for granting me this time and the Lilly Endowment for granting us the funds.
Question: How was your vacation?
- Actually it was more of an extended Sabbath, rather than a typical vacation. Imagine climbing a mountain, praying for most of a week with a group of monks, shooting forty minutes of reflective film footage in the Canadian Rockies, and singing with Bobby McFerrin. It's not like any vacation that I've ever had.
Question: How was that spiritual thingy, whatever it's called, that you just finished?
- It was a summer filled with a lot of peace, a lot of rest, a lot of enjoyment with my wife and kids, and simply full of music in various keys and rhythms. For the moment, I am feeling completely grounded. My feet are firmly planted. I have a refreshed perspective of the work that I have been put on the planet to do. I also am aware of the things that I don't need to do.
Hmm... Which of these speeches should I use? Open mouth, whatever comes out, comes out. And it probably will not capture what a complete gift this time has been.