I’m not usually one to dwell on the past, but today warrants a bit of reflection. After I served as a summer intern in 2007, my first official column for the Adventist Review appeared at the beginning of 2008. Almost exactly 14 years later you’re reading my last (well, for now).
The germination of the big idea took place at Valentino’s Grand Italian Buffet (if you know, you know) on a blustery winter day in Lincoln, Nebraska. I sat in a greasy vinyl booth across from my professor, mentor, and friend Chris Blake. Over lukewarm pizza we batted around ideas for my forthcoming regular monthly feature in the Review. After a lot of thought—and pizza—we landed on a relatively simple concept that concisely summarized exactly what I wanted this space to be about: Introducing the Why.
In those first few columns I walked on familiar ground—prayer, church, the Second Coming—with a focus on fresh, practical application. As I transitioned out of college and began encountering numerous life milestones, my goal each month was simply to share my daily experiences and hope that you might get something out of them. With that came a lot of vulnerability and honesty about being on my own for the first time, getting married, and becoming a dad.
Along the way I developed relationships with many of you from afar. As I ventured out of town—whether to a conference, a new church, or an academy flag-football tournament—I’d inevitably have someone come up to me and start what would become a somewhat regular occurrence throughout the years.
Almost exactly 14 years later you’re reading my last column (well, for now).
“Your name sounds really familiar; have we met before?”
“You don’t happen to read the Adventist Review, do you?
Some interactions stand out more than others. One reader sent my wife, Natalie, and me a wedding gift from our online registry. Another invited me to take a 12-hour train ride to speak at her rural church in Oregon. An inmate at a California prison wrote me a letter of encouragement. Most recently, as my family made the emotionally taxing move to Kettering, Ohio, a church member tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I love reading your articles in the Review; we’re so glad you’re here.”
Along the way, countless others wrote public letters and private emails. Every time I received a note, I always made a point to write back. And every single time, I learned from the dialogue.
And so, as I sit here trying to find a way to bottle up 14 years into 550 words, there’s one thing that especially stands out: we grow by being willing to productively share our views and by truly listening as others do the same. As someone who often speaks first, I’ve learned there’s a huge difference between listening to respond and listening to understand.
In closing . . . thanks to Chris Blake for teaching an energetic and very green college kid how much words matter.
To Steve Chavez for letting me sleep in his guest bedroom and walk his dogs during the summer of ‘07.
To Bill Knott and the entire editorial staff for taking a chance on me and always making my disparate thoughts sound better.
And to everyone who ever read one of my articles, took the time to write, or prayed for me and my family:
Thank you—and goodbye (for now).
Jimmy Phillips is vice president of marketing and communications for Kettering Health.