For years now, the example of Dick Evenson has followed me—a strange phenomenon because it’s been thirty years since we worked together in the Division for Parish Services of the former Lutheran Church in America.
The personal quality that always impressed me during that time was Dick’s unflagging positive outlook. No matter what, no matter whom. At first this attitude seemed saccharine or naïve. I thought that maybe he was just one of those Happy Norwegians who are jolly by nature. That I could appreciate him without necessarily following his example.
I remember, though, having a conversation with him about this part of his personality. Trudging around his home’s back-forty—trading gardening stories and secrets—we talked about how he was always able to find what was good, hopeful, interesting and enjoyable. A life worth smiling about. It became apparent to me that this trait was not an accident of genetics. Dick actively chose to think and behave in this way. A highly regarded (and now-sainted) denominational and ecumenical leader, Dick remained convinced that practiced positivity was the best, most useful way to approach life.
Dick’s example comes to me back almost daily. Since my retirement, I’ve had the great pleasure of being a mentor, advisor or friend for a number of up-and-coming leaders. In these relationships—and in other areas of my life—I’ve tried to remember how Dick’s mindset helped me when I was a newbie leader in our church body. I see his smile and hear his voice when I’m asked about societal developments, church polity or ministry.
Although I’ve often failed to exhibit positivity—sometimes at critical moments—I still want to be like Dick. Matching his example is one of my secret life goals.
Hard to achieve but still within reach….