Rachel started her own business last fall. She spent a year training to become a massage therapist, then another year gaining some experience.
Then she opened up her own place.
And God has blessed it.
Since opening in October, she has seen around 100 new clients, most of whom re-book and refer their friends.
But there’s some backstory to all this.
Years ago, after we first moved to the area, Rachel wanted to become a part of the community. She volunteered at the church quite a bit, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she should be connected to the blossoming downtown area of New Albany.
So she got a job at a hot dog stand, which led to a remarkable story that can be read here.
As she got to know downtown business owners, many of them asked her to work for them.
She helped several shop owners during busy seasons, often getting paid with store merchandise, like soap or antique lamps.
One time she just gave her time away, volunteering at a startup bakery during the wee hours of the morning.
Before long, everyone in downtown knew Rachel.
People would walk into a shop, see her behind the counter and say, “Wait, don’t you work at the bakery?”
If a film took place in downtown New Albany, Rachel would be a character for sure. That girl with dreadlocks who works in every shop.
Rachel hasn’t filled out a job application since we’ve lived in New Albany, yet she’s had days when people stop her on the street and offer her a job.
This past weekend Rachel and I ran into Susan, the director of the downtown Farmer’s Market.
Susan told us about all the praise she keeps hearing for Rachel’s massage business. Apparently, New Albany residents are saying things like, “You know that Rachel girl, with the dreadlocks, the one who works everywhere. She opened a massage business, and it’s really great.”
Susan said to Rachel, “You are a genius. The way you marketed yourself before you even started a business. Now people know you and trust you.”
The truth is, Rachel isn’t a genius. At least, not when it comes to marketing.
She just wanted to be present, and get to know people.
The lesson is this: Presence matters.
We’ve lived in New Albany for just over five years, and we have met a lot of people. In fact, we know more people here than we know anywhere else, even in our hometown.
We’ve learned that it’s possible to move to a new place, where we don’t know a soul, and get to know hundreds of people.
The foundational value of our ministry in Midtown is being present. My friend Jeff Minton says it this way, “The most important thing we can do for this neighborhood is be here.”
And presence isn’t a crafty strategy to make our ministry flourish. It’s not a genius piece of marketing that gets our business off to a good start.
Presence is important because our lives of faith are about people. And in order to have relationships with people, we have to be around them on a regular basis.
I’m proud of my wife for having a successful business. But mostly, I’m proud of her for putting herself out there. For stepping into the community and making herself available as a friend and a servant.
I’m proud of her for being present.