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ODDS & ENDS
Lunch Club for Men
To become a positive influence takes time and friendship.

by Jonathan Wilson
December 6, 2004

Lunch Club for Men_Dear Jon-to become a positive influence takes time and friendship I moved back to Chicago after spending a few years away, and reconnected with some of my best friends. I was serving a church now: when I had left Chicago I was a long way from being pastoral in either career direction or personality. My best friends are the kind of guys that actually welcomed the change. 

Part of my journey in to ministry followed along the path of the Promise-Keepers, a Christian movement for male spirituality that reached its peak when over a million gathered in Washington D.C. in October of 1997. I was there. Like many other men, I have moved on from official affiliation with Promise Keepers. However, something of its priorities stayed with me. Soon after moving back I proposed that some men, including my best friends but not closed from others, get together once a week for lunch. Most of them were punching clocks, and I knew from my earlier career choices in cube-ville that one hour taken from the middle of the day to spend with friends would be good medicine for the soul. We chose Wednesdays.

One of the legacies of this lunch club is, I am proud to say, the Partial Observer. The lunch club is not the only formative antecedent to the Partial Observer, but it is one of them. The founding editor, one of my best friends, brought the idea up at a Wednesday lunch club meeting. One of the founding contributors gave this on-line journal its name at this same lunch-club meeting.

We have rotated our locations, including both fast food and table-served restaurants. Pizza one week. Tacos. General menu. We are recognized by the establishments as approximately monthly regulars. The rotation of restaurants has not changed much, but membership in the lunch club has changed, normally with the fortunes of employment. The P.O. editor now lives in another state. Others have returned to health and are more regularly with us. 

Through it all there has been a stalwart nucleus of four men. These four men were eating lunch together every Wednesday through the Bush/Gore disputed election, the 9/11/01 attack, war in Afghanistan and Iraq, all three releases of the LORD of the RINGS trilogy and the final two MATRIX segments, the rising and falling fortunes of the Cubs including a foul ball debacle, the 13-3 Bears season and all their heart-break since,  and the deaths of George Harrison, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles.

I am happy to say that my goal in forming a lunch group for men has paid off. These ongoing relationship has allowed for the lives of these men to be shaped through positive influence. You are assuming that I, the evangelical pastor, am the one doing the positive influencing. I wish that were true, but no. 

That influence has not come from me. I am the life that has changed. For four years, in a world convulsed by a war on terror, and in a culture assaulted by the vacuous and the insipid (such as "The Da Vinci Code," the debunking of which has become for me a personal crusade, much to the mirth of my lunch group) we have gathered and we have eaten like pigs. All of us, save one man. The thinnest of us, the one in the best shape, continued to follow disciplines in eating despite our good-humored peer pressure.

This man never criticized the habits of anyone else. He did not make his eating habits a matter of moral superiority. He simply continued to eat less than everyone else. He ate less because he ordered less. 

A turning point for me came up as we lamented the fortunes of the local small college's football team. Being a rather heady group, some of us with graduate degrees and others of us with that capability if not the interest, we began to joke about the possibility of going to this small college for graduate school and suiting up for their rather pathetic squad.

I pointed out that the only one who would have a decent shot at actually playing in college sports at that moment, was the only one who HAD played college sports, and who had therefore exhausted his eligibility. That man was the one among us still in shape, still thin, eating less than everyone else. That became, for me, a moment of enlightenment.

That man had stood with me in my wedding party, along with the editor of the P.O. and another stalwart member of the lunch group. That man would be embarrassed to be named as the one whose four years of quiet example finally, finally, sunk in.

I don't chide him to order more or to eat more. Instead, I have submitted myself to a little discipline this Fall. By Thanksgiving I had lost 25 pounds. I am much closer to the weight that I should be.

That is what sitting with guys once a week for lunch can do. One guy's quiet influence can make a difference in others, when a guy makes the time for others. I am pretty confident that the man who inspired me to do better about my food and my weight, is going to read this, so I want to end by saying, thank you for taking the time to eat with me once a week.

About the Author:
Jonathan Wilson is a small church pastor in Chicago.


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