“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

A great story needs more than lead characters – which is wonderful, because the spotlight has never been comfortable for me.

Many of my most fulfilling experiences in life have been on the sidelines – fostering community around a dinner table, listening, celebrating successes, or helping pick up the pieces and make sense of failure and loss. These are not individually striking moments, yet the peace I find in them speaks its own truth about who I am and what I am called to do. 

I keep a prayer by the theologian John Baillie on the wall of my room. “…My unwillingness to believe that you have called me to a small work and my brother to a great one, O Lord forgive.” 

The prayer is a reminder that I live my one life in a community of people striving in their own wild and precious ways – that my peers have their own dreams, many nobler than my own. They are the lead characters of their own stories, perhaps in need of a willing supporting cast.

And so, with my life, I will find contentment on the sidelines. I will offer my small work to assist my brother and sister in their great ones.


— Robert Carpenter