Wearing the Collar
To be completely honest, outside of worship, pastoral calls, and some meetings and other church responsibilities, I rarely wear my clergy collar. While I wear a clergy shirt most days, the little white piece of plastic that inserts into the collar to provide that distinctive white square at the neck often resides in one of my pockets, or a cup holder in my Jeep.
Even on days that I’ve been wearing my clergy shirt with the white plastic tab-collar inserted, I often fall into the temptation of pulling it out as soon as I’m in the privacy of my office or Jeep.
That being said, wearing it in public is part of being a witness of the faith and the church as I go about my daily life. And now that I’ve finally found a couple clergy shirts that fit REALLY well, I’m more inclined to stay “in uniform” as I go about non-ministry related errands.
Such was the case when I took my dog Tebow to the vet yesterday to get his annual vaccines.
After visiting with and administering the shots for Tebow, the veterinarian and I talked a little bit about what it means to have a “rough day” as a vet. He told me that vets really have to wear a lot of hats. They are a doctor to the animal, and in many cases a friend to the owner; but at the end of life, they quickly change from doctor to executioner (his words, not mine), and undertaker.
Furthermore, he reminded me that when people lose a (human) family member, they are often surrounded by a support network of friends and extended family, but that when families lose their pets, it is most often only the immediate family there, or even just a single person. Without a support network in place, veterinarians might also wear the hat of grief counselor.
I had never quite thought of a veterinarian’s job in that way.
He told me of a day years ago, when late in an afternoon, he had to euthanize three dogs in a row. His final patient of the day after that was the dog of a (now retired) Lutheran Pastor in the area. He told me how he had had a similar conversation with that Pastor, that the Pastor had offered to be a resource to him or any families who were really having a rough go of losing their pet, and that he had in fact sent 2-3 families grieving the loss of their pets to that Pastor over the years.
Unfortunately, since my time here in LaVale will be coming to an end in August, I’m not able to be a resource to replace his friend the Pastor whom he had referred families to, but I think he appreciated being able to talk about how stressful his job can often be, and I certainly appreciated hearing his perspective on something I’d never given much thought to. And the conversation happened because I made the conscious decision not to rip off my clergy collar as soon as I was “done” for the day…