Angela Williams: The Caring Power of Community

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How do you sustain a life of service…especially when your job costs you something? Angela Williams has dedicated her life to advocating for others. She joined the military. She became a lawyer. She became a minister. Wait, now she runs one of the largest service organizations in the world, the United Way, as its CEO? Incredible.

But what’s behind all this is a story about service. About what it takes to stay in the long, slow work of community. You will believe when she says that it’s hard…and it’s good. At the same time.

In this conversation, Kate and Angela discuss:

  • Why we need community now more than ever
  • The case for interdependence and why it’s so important to give up on individualism
  • How to sustain a life of service (hint: it has something to do with joy)

CW: cancer, caregiving

Watch clips from this conversation, read the full transcript, and access discussion questions by clicking here.

Follow Kate on InstagramFacebook, or X (formerly known as Twitter)—@katecbowler.



Kate Bowler, Angela Williams

Kate Bowler  00:00

Hey there, I’m Kate Bowler and this is Everything Happens. This is a listening community just chock full of people who care like really, really care. Like choose jobs that cost them something you beautiful people are, you know your everyone your doctors and teachers and social workers and chaplains and healthcare workers and you run nonprofits, you volunteer for the sake of others. You are the kind of person who offered a bring food. It’s just wonderful. And often your work asks you to care for strangers. And isn’t that a beautiful definition of love? Today I have the privilege of sitting down with someone who has lived a life of service. She holds a deep and beautiful conviction that we are made for community and interdependence. Whether it’s when our own lives come unraveled, or that of our neighbors, she believes that we are called to show up for one another. And her name is Angela Williams. Angela is a she has all the hats. She is a lawyer, a minister, a lifelong advocate for others. She’s the president and CEO of United Way Worldwide with more than 30 years of leadership experience in the nonprofit and corporate sectors. And before joining United Way, Angela was president and CEO of Easterseals. She also served on active duty in the US Air Force lead as an executive vice president general counsel and Chief Administrative Officer at the YMCA. So she’s just like the perfect person to talk to about the virtues that sustain a life of service. So not just what makes us feel altruistic, but what keeps us going. When a big part of our life is caring. I had the great joy of sitting down with Angela for this conversation today. And if you like you can watch some clips from our conversation. I’ll include them in the show notes over at Or you can find it in our email. Okay but without further ado, the wonderful Angela Williams.


Kate Bowler  04:15

Angela, thank you so much for doing this. I felt like I immediately wanted to call you Reverend, JD everything, because I have because you’re so many people to so many people. But I thought maybe we could start at the very beginning and talk about your childhood. You grew up with a front row seat to the civil rights movement. And I wondered if you could start there with your parents.


Angela Williams  04:37

Thank you for this opportunity to be here with you, I’m really excited. And actually thank you for starting with my parents because that is my foundation and my beginning. And as you mentioned, my parents were very active in the civil rights movement. My dad was pastor of a church. He was head of the indelible NAACP for the state of South Carolina. And while I was cleaning out my painting Parents attic last year, I found a letter that my dad wrote in 1957, to all of the pastors in the state. And he said, essentially, now is the time to be brave and courageous, and stand up for justice and righteousness. And it was just a very moving letter and powerful. And so that’s the family lineage that I was born into.


Kate Bowler  05:31

I remember, mine was the time legacy it’s got to be a.


Angela Williams  05:35



Kate Bowler  05:36

Now is the time.


Angela Williams  05:37

Now is the time.


Kate Bowler  05:38

And that was before so many landmark cases that opened up the possibility for I mean, the I’m just running in my head through like the integration of so many colleges or public services.


Angela Williams  05:51

Which you know, what that now is the time theme, and being brave and courageous. I think it’s prevalent for today, and where we find ourselves. And my dad worked with Martin Luther King, Jr, and if, you know about his last book, Dr. King’s book, it’s from chaos, to community. Where do we go from here? And he talks about this notion of a world house, where we are integrated and can no longer Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Christian, we are integrated, where we are tied together. And so in that integration and and that entanglement, we have a choice to make. Do we want to stay in chaos? Or do we want to move into community? So that’s what I’ve learned from my parents, about being in community serving community.


Kate Bowler  06:47

If I were going to pick like a, looking at the scope of your life, your commitment to communities in particular are so intense. I mean, I think other people might feel like they’re pro institution in some way where they choose a group to whom they will be of direct service, and you are lucky. You weren’t it? I wonder, when you decided that, like, not community in general, but communities in particular? Does that feel like that account of vocation feels exactly like your parents language? In your mind?


Angela Williams  07:23

It does, so if you had met me, when I was five years old, and asked me what do you want to do when you grow up? You know what I said, what? I wanted to be president and I wanted to be a nun.


Kate Bowler  07:39

She said.


Angela Williams  07:43

So I am both in a different context. So yes, I’m an ordained minister.


Kate Bowler  07:49

I love, amazing, and I love it my aim was to be a singing cellist, which I was like, this will be amazing and then I was like, no one wants to hear that.


Angela Williams  07:58

Oh but it’s not too late. I always think about dream big. And we can always live out our dream. So I am a proponent of that. But you know, there was this TV show The Flying men with Sally Field. And so my context of women in ministry, was that Tammy show, my dad was pastor of a church. But the context of being a woman in ministry was that.


Kate Bowler  08:28

That makes so much sense.


Angela Williams  08:30

So that’s a five year olds take on.


Kate Bowler  08:32

Like, I want this vocational category, and this one.


Angela Williams  08:37

That President I can articulate and understand. And so I’m gonna happen President of the United Way Worldwide. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than this.


Kate Bowler  08:48

What was the first? What was the first turn in the road? Then it was, was it directly toward law at the time?


Angela Williams  08:56

So here’s what I would say, it’s about advocacy. And so my vocation is tied to advocacy and as a lawyer and a minister, it’s about advocating.


Kate Bowler  09:09

I mean, I guess vocation to be called to something in particular, is also then to say no to other to other maybe you don’t want to say lesser, but maybe lesser calls.


Angela Williams  09:21

So can I tell you a story?


Kate Bowler  09:22



Angela Williams  09:24

In the wrestling of who am I? What is my purpose? How do I express all of who I am? And I kept my life in different categories. So there was the Reverend Angela Williams, that would preach and minister on the weekends. Then there was the lawyer Angela Williams, General Counsel, giving advice to clients Monday through Friday. One day, in my law firm, one of those senior partners came to me and said, how’s everything going? And I just went into this tirade about, you know, you all giving the cases to other people. I’m a former federal prosecutor, I had no trial, I have a trial experience. And you’re giving the cases to the guy down the street, that’s only argued one motion in federal court, it’s just not clear. You’re not treating me fairly on and on. And so after I expressed myself, he then says to me, Angela, how many resumes do you have? And I was like, why is this relevant to the conversation? But anyway, so I have to why no bios? And then I said to why, he said, what are they? I said, well, there’s my lawyer bio and then there’s my minister bio. And he said, Oh, so you’re an inauthentic person? Oh, my gosh, did that push a button? What do you mean, I’m not authentic? I am very authentic and he said, if you were really authentic, you would show your whole self everywhere you go and not hide, or compartmentalize portions of your life, and then he said, the reason is Angela, because people want to work with people they resonate with. And so it almost it’s this, yeah, you may be smart, you’re good, a good lawyer, but there are tons of really smart, good lawyers. How do I feel in your presence? What what are the things that you and I have in common? Outside of I’m a client, you’re my lawyer. And when he said that, I thought, oh, so my spirituality may be important to the person that I’m talking to across the table.


Kate Bowler  11:41

I see, so like the many layers?


Angela Williams  11:45



Kate Bowler  11:45

Because there is such a temptation, I think, especially with maybe our over professionalization, and our specialization starts so early and then when people pick a path, I think they feel like they can just be kind of too long down one path, then they forget other hobbies or dreams. And then they might feel like overly siloed into a person that can’t really show the fullness of who they are.


Angela Williams  12:12

Yes. And be unapologetic about it.


Kate Bowler  12:14



Angela Williams  12:15

And I think what’s tough, now these days is that people tend to live by sound bites. And they define other people by sound bites. It’s, however many minutes that you have, where you could do an Instagram Live, or to a video to post on Instagram, or it’s however many words you can put into a tweet. And I think that’s really unfortunate, because there’s power in the human connection. And we don’t have to agree but let’s at least talk to each other and engage and understand each other.


Kate Bowler  12:59

Like across these insanely sharp divides.


Angela Williams  13:03



Kate Bowler  13:03

That our media and probably training and breakdown of democracy, that’s great.


Angela Williams  13:12

But that’s what I love about my, my organization because, first of all, let’s start with the name United Way, what better name? It’s a 135 year old organization that was founded by a Jewish woman, a rabbi, a Catholic priest, and a Lutheran and a Presbyterian, pastors, ministers, theologians, right. So yeah, they all walk in and say there’s a need in Denver. And we need to collect the time talent, treasure of our community, and put it in what was called a former name, a community chest, and then give it out to those in need. I remember that from monopoly. Actually, community chess is based off of United Way.


Kate Bowler  14:00

What ?


Angela Williams  14:00



Kate Bowler  14:01

That’s amazing.


Angela Williams  14:02

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were getting royalties? But that’s us.


Kate Bowler  14:02

Like this is our common treasury.


Angela Williams  14:02



Kate Bowler  14:02

Which we will then, give out in the service of others.


Angela Williams  14:09

Yes, yeah and so we transition at some point from community chess, some some of our local United we still use that that term or that mean, but United Way and so this notion of being in community, and my colleagues live in community, their neighbors helping neighbors, and they come together in times of need. And then there’s this way in this journey that we’re all on together, to create community resilience, to allow people the opportunity to thrive, to meet people where they are in terms of need and support. So that’s what we do.


Kate Bowler  14:54

How is that? What is the I’m not sure what their slogan is, I’m thinking of when I think of United Way I think of when I give lectures on the 19th century and the rise of these masks, like they think of that I think what they call it is like, the voluntary century like that these were the very first foundations of these incredible corporate.


Angela Williams  15:15

Projects with the YMCA, where I used to work, Easter Seals. And so they’re just so many you can think about Red Cross Salvation Army, rather goodwill.


Kate Bowler  15:27

So what was the mandate of the United Way at the start? And then how did it evolve?


Angela Williams  15:32

Essentially, it’s mobilizing the caring power of community. And that hasn’t really changed. And so now, in our second century of service, how we mobilize the caring power of community looks different, you have what we all experienced over the last few years, a pandemic, and how that brought to light systems that were broken, that people couldn’t access, whether it was food or medical support, or even having access to the internet, because kids were working from whom, and, or, or even having the hardware meaning computers. And so we saw everything on full display during the pandemic. And then how we add partnership with other nonprofits and, and other corporations and government, we worked to figure out how to deliver these necessary services to individuals. But it doesn’t stop there, I mean, I talk about the fact that we’re in 37 countries, and that the language spoken may be different, the faces may be different, the culture may be different, but basic needs for human survival and thriving are the same. And so how we show up locally may be different depending on the pressing need at that moment. But in this second center service, how do we, as a system show up in a way? That is, one it allows for those who are in need to come up with creating the solutions? For what’s happening to them, so that we’re not savers, but rather, partners? Secondly, how do we tap into technology in a way that allows for one collecting data real time to share here are our emerging issues and communities? And what can we do to coalesce around those. And then third, just again, lifting up the voices of those in community to share, hey, this is what’s happening to us. This is how we are experiencing life, and then coming up with unique ways, multigenerational ways that resonate, for people to feel as if they want to give up their time, talent and treasure.


Kate Bowler  18:05

Yeah, how do people typically give their time talent and treasure do they? I imagine people give money. Are there people who are just like, United Way volunteers, and that’s part of their community identity?


Angela Williams  18:20

It is, so we have about 1.4 million volunteers?


Kate Bowler  18:24

What amazing number.


Angela Williams  18:25

It is and we can so my husband, as I was saying something like, oh, I want to triple lead and I want to do this and do this. I was throwing out like tripling everything that we do. And he said, What are you coming up with these numbers? I said, I don’t know. I’m just dreaming big okay, I’m gonna do it. So just leave me alone, right? This is it, I just throw that stake in the ground. And this is what we’re gonna do, but what I appreciate about our organization is that we have incredible corporate partnerships, we have about 45,000 corporations that partner with us, and through their employee giving campaigns, were able to not only raise funds out of the generosity of individual employees, but also create opportunities for volunteerism.


Kate Bowler  19:10

I see, and are a lot of the times because I’m one of the things I think we’re all worried about is this thing we right now both as an American religious historian, and as someone who really knows how much I mean, I couldn’t have put most of the structures of my life together and need people who volunteer to kind of like shore my life up and me back in. I think we’re all a little worried that volunteerism isn’t as normal as it was before I mean, my parents went could only afford college because they go to got a rotary scholarship. And a lot of these we’ve seen the decline of so many of these forms of associational like belonging, that now doesn’t feel I mean, now there are pickleball leagues and we’re gonna celebrate pickleball but like, it’s not the same thing and as being part of like a group that typically regularly meets, and then, you know, and then volunteers in mass. So I wonder how you’ve been thinking about this sort of new need to recruit new people into volunteerism, and then how maybe to encourage people to feel like it could be a part of their life without, because most of the people we’re talking about are already. They’d be like, I don’t have time or treasure, or maybe they kind of worry that they’re too busy, and they’re not sure how to connect.


Angela Williams  20:32

Yes, so that’s a great question. And what we’re seeing with seeing with the younger generations, and we’re down to what Gen Z now, what are we.


Kate Bowler  20:42

Going to fall off the alphabet.


Angela Williams  20:44

We start over again. But with the younger folks, what what causes them to engage is when it’s something that resonates, and they can actually see how their effort makes a difference. So it has to be tangible in their community.


Kate Bowler  21:05

Yeah, can you give me an example?


Angela Williams  21:07

So an example would be we see a lot of young people that are interested in cleaning a clean environment. Or you see a lot of young people that are interested in animal welfare, or you see them in particular, I love the examples of the young people that were developing, like Facebook groups, and other ways where they can help seniors that didn’t know how to navigate getting appointments, or vaccines. Or you saw the young people that were putting together boxes of food, to help at the food banks or just to help in their community. So I honestly believe that the human spirit is such that we come out of the womb. Yeah, we have our selfish aspects, but we are really connected to each other and care. And in and especially like young children, if they see a need, they want to do a lemonade stand or something. So here’s the challenge for nonprofits, for corporations that want to engage their employees and volunteerism, how do you create a mechanism whether it’s an app or a way where a person feels like they can own what it is they want to engage in because it sparks their interest or it aligns with their beliefs on what they the difference they want to make in the world? So we need to democratize volunteerism and giving differently than say, the way we used to do it in the 70s, 80s and the 90s.


Kate Bowler  22:49

Yeah, I’m sure you know, Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, who is a delight, just a delight. As a soothing voice. Kind presence adeep concern about loneliness, I’m sure you’re seeing I mean, this feels like the same conversation with this social breakdown with the I mean, the breakdown of this, like webs of interdependence. And then you’re like no, come back.


Angela Williams  23:14

Yes, exactly it’s, we were created to be in community and in relationship. And so even when you I always marvel, like, if you go to a restaurant, and you sit down, and you look at everybody, how many people are at a table, and they’re looking at their phones and not engaging in conversation, you see that around family dining room tables, we have to continue to work at connectivity. And that that even when, when Dr. Murphy Murthy talks about this loneliness, I’m concerned about that. That’s not healthy, that doesn’t lead to a healthy system and systems could be a workplace environment. It could be your church or your synagogue or your mosque. It could be any other system in which we connect with.


Kate Bowler  24:12

We’ll be right back.


Kate Bowler  24:21

There’s a lot of people who write in to talk about the worst moments of their life and one of the kind of themes that bubbled up is in the in the worst moments, you know, they either really needed a community to come surround to be a part of the solution that they needed or it was actually in participating in a cause. That wasn’t just their own, you know, time of undoing that gave them a feeling of purpose and a reason. I mean, it’s so weird that like, but in caring for others, it really does sometimes like whittle away at our own sorrow, and start to be part of our healing.


Angela Williams  27:59

And that’s an important point. Because if you focus on your own stuff, then you forget, like what’s really important in life and making sure that you’re not pulling away so for example, when my husband got the diagnosis or cancer, he was asymptomatic. And we had gone to the Mayo Clinic for our annual checkup. So you go there, go to your annual checkup, you’re feeling fine. So you don’t anticipate that there’s going to be any bad news. And then to end up walking away, like there is some bad news. And here it is, and we need to get you into treatment immediately. And so we drove back from Rochester, Minnesota to Chicago, and I was driving and just driving through tears of like five hours of what just happened. And he’s lying back in the in the, in the car, it paid after the biopsy and just like both of us were like.


Kate Bowler  29:01

Oh, because it was just diagnosis and then to biopsy right away?


Angela Williams  29:04

Oh, yeah, they were like, Oh, this is this is we need to act on this now. And did you want us to schedule surgery like next week? And I was like, no. Can we just like digest what just happened? And then his recovery was awful. It was really, really bad. But and he’s a pastor, and he just kept talking to the Lord is why me? Of course everybody asked that question. And then why am I not healing well, and why I’m in so much pain, and the use of the Lord kept telling him, this illness is not unto death. And he held on to that word. And then out of this, so many strangers men have called a bit and a friend of mine and a friend of a friend of a friend said you had gone through this cancer. I need to talk to you here’s what the doctor is saying, how did you recover? And so he has been now that counselor that encourager for so many. So, that was for him. And then when I got out of the experience was, I, while he was in surgery, I made the decision that my parents asked, do you want us to come, I should know, I didn’t want his, you know, has no need for his family to come, I said, I’ll be fine, I’m gonna stay in the hospital room and my a type personality I bought, I brought with me two computers, like three cell phones and iPad, you know, found the nearest electrical plug, you know, set up office and northwest of the hospital, and sat there for hours by myself trying to do work. And then it just dawned on me, this is not a good place to be by yourself and alone, and it hurt. And at that moment, I made the decision, I will never, ever let a friend go alone and sit in a hospital waiting room by themselves, it hurts so again, you go through these experiences, because you know, you need to help other people. And so another close friend of ours, called and said, hey, I’m in town, my husband’s having surgery. And I’ve got to go to work. She said, well, what’s Rod doing? And my husband was like, Oh, I’ll tell him he’ll definitely go because we lived right next to live right next to Northwestern hospital. And so I called Rod and he said, Oh, I am definitely going over there and our friend, he thanked us poster, he said, thank you, Rod for coming, because again, there’s certain things in life, you don’t want to go through by yourself. And you just have to make sure that you surround yourself with good people and then secondly, be vulnerable enough to share what’s going on in your life with other people. And not keep it a secret like that.


Kate Bowler  32:04

When it’s so much easier […]


Angela Williams  32:09

And I am the one that is like ultra, ultra. I am the control, I’ve got it in control […]


Kate Bowler  32:23

Oh my gosh, I did all my medical travel alone.


Angela Williams  32:26

Oh, did you?


Kate Bowler  32:27

And it was it was terrible and I.


Angela Williams  32:29

Well, wow.


Kate Bowler  32:30

Terrible, it was.


Angela Williams  32:31

Well, I made the commitment to my husband this when it came back. And he had to go for radiation. I said, well, I will take you every morning because it was you know, five days a week.


Kate Bowler  32:41

So much work.


Angela Williams  32:41

And I said but do you mind if we do it like the first part of the morning so I’ll get you back. Make sure everything’s in order. And then I’ll go to work for a couple of hours, check on you and then come back and that worked, that worked well for us. And then you know, radiation is really tough on the body and so there were times where it was just like really hard on him […[ so this so well, I will tell you this. The first diagnosis was shortly like within months of us being married. So we got married June 25 2005. So 18 years in and then it reoccurred let me see that 2018 so yeah.


Kate Bowler  33:32

You know, you’re professionally in charge of teaching everyone interdependence you know like your entire life in ministry and ethos is like I will help create categories that support other people helping others right and then when it comes to our own personal I will bear out this life on my own.


Kate Bowler  33:49

Now I’m not opposed to asking for prayer all the time. So it’s like hey, I didn’t pray or can you pray for me okay, who can get a get a mess sister to god.


Kate Bowler  36:01



Kate Bowler  36:01

We’ll be right back.


Kate Bowler  36:02

We have a lot of people in our community who just who are caregiving is a big part of their life and almost like personality, maybe like who are you a caregiver, I whether it’s kids or people with special needs, or parents or partners, but like caregivers, well, what do you say maybe to people who want service to be a part of their life, but then so much of the rest of their life is also kind of service?


Angela Williams  36:44

Yes and so sometimes is if you’re in service, for example, as a chaplain or as a nurse or a doctor, or just so many different ways of social worker, navigator, community navigator, sometimes it’s great to do service in something totally different, you know.


Kate Bowler  37:02

I’m gonna do this animal rescue thing, talking to certain people about their problems if I do.


Angela Williams  37:10

So I think it just really also, even more importantly, in terms of self care, how do you find joy and humor out of life? And how do you make sure because joy is one of my core values. I laugh all the time, I smile nonstop. It’s just who I am, and so even in your darkest hour, if there’s something that you can find to laugh at, it just changes everything in your body.


Kate Bowler  37:46

If we were going to talk people into a life defined by service and love of others, there’s all the parts that are just like the doing and the but one of the weird, I feel like side benefits of being open to the world is like, it does open up a capacity for joy. But it is I’ve when you say joy is one of my core values, it feels like a lovely foundation to rest on that you know that you have a big capacity for joy.


Angela Williams  38:19

And, you know, I had to throw this scripture in from the Bible, this is the joy of the Lord is my strength. And and so no matter how dark the days are, if you just level set on your spiritual core and, and your belief system, and then knowing that a dark place or a valley is in between two mountains. And so eventually you’re going to be moving up to the mountaintop. Now, of course, there’s going to be another valley experience, but they need to get back up and go on to the next mountain talk.


Kate Bowler  38:56

Yeah, knowing in the worst moments that won’t stay there. I mean, that is one of the even just pace setting your own pain or discomfort with going through the awful thing. A person who says like this, my love will not last. And it makes me feel like new strength kind of bubbles up from under the ground.


Angela Williams  39:17

But you know, there are there are some things that happen in life that become permanent. But the question is, how do you view your circumstance? And what do you say about it? And, and in that you can actually transition and still have peace because that’s another component. There’s joy, and then there’s peace. And then the script is is the peace that surpasses all understanding. And people will look at you and say, how could you be peaceful in the situation like this? That’s where the spiritual piece comes in. And the grounding and the foundation.


Kate Bowler  39:57

It sounds like this must have been a really important to start a spiritual discipline, and during your husband’s illness, and also just the I mean, the chaos, that being an unbelievably busy and accomplished person brings, because you have one of those jobs where you, I mean, one of the gifts and burdens of having a very purpose heavy job is all of it’s important. I mean, it’s not like you’re, I mean, all things are good, but you’re like counting beans in the corner. You’re like trying to create the scaffolding for people’s health and well.


Angela Williams  40:29

Yeah and so disasters hit on a moment’s notice, you never know when you wake up, and there’s going to be a war, or that day you wake up and there’s mass shooting, or that day you wake up in a hurricane or tornado takes out whole communities. And it may be your own community where you actually touched. But what I see in my United Way, colleagues, is that they are so selfless, they’ll make sure their family is grounded but then it’s like, I need to get to the 911 disaster center for the city and help with the calls our call center operators for two and one during hurricane in, in Florida in 2022. A lot of them didn’t even know what was going on with their own families. And they were coaching seniors on how to climb up onto their kitchen countertops. Because they’re calling saying the water is coming into our house, what do we do? Or I had one of my CEOs say that a family was able to get her number texted her to say can you send water rescue everybody on our street and we’re on our rooftops, and her having to text back, we it’s another 24 hours. So in the meantime, wondering, is my own family okay, how are they doing? And so that’s this selfless, selflessness service. I’ve got to help people in the moment. And that’s what you see with my colleagues at United Way, and the partners that we work with. So it’s being in the moment and then saying, all right, we’re gonna have to dig in, roll up our sleeves and we’ve got to clean up after this devastation. But we’re going to keep moving on and, and my favorite phrase that my husband always repeats, he’s like, there you go again, I’m like, let’s just keep it moving, we got to keep it moving.


Kate Bowler  42:34

Let’s just keep it moving as I need it, that’s a, that’s a that’s a really powerful response to tragedy. Let’s just get some traction under these feet. One of the most common afflictions of the people that are service minded is, I mean, there’s all kinds of language for it, but like burnout, soul weariness, but a sense of not being sure how with the resources they have, that they can keep meeting their own purpose filled desires, and then they’re like, well, it’s just runs out. So I kind of want to ask you the same question in two ways. Could you answer it? Psychologically, as if this were an answer about self care, hey, there are practical things that people do or whatever, but then I kind of want to ask you like that spiritually to you’re pastor. You’re someone who thinks about the and we and we often have kind of people who need the practical tips and just are kind of a like, opens up an existential question in them.


Angela Williams  43:37

Especially you see this with with people like pastors or chaplains, or even in the health profession, what the first thing that we have to recognize is that we’re not saviors. Like in the Christian tradition, I’m not the little Jesus. Because when you get into that mode, you become get into this mode of what I consider to be pride. This person needs me, they are not going to progress unless I do X, Y, and Z. And when we, and it is so subtle, because our hearts and our intentions are pure, but we can easily slip into this. They need me therefore I must. So what I do is, I stop and ask God, is this something that I should intervene in? Or do something about? Or am I just supposed to stay and and encourage the person but allow them to go through? And so it’s about what are the boundaries that you put in place so that you’re not on 24/7 and drained personally? And do you have a do not disturb that you turn on your phone? Do you tell the people that you work with that? Hey, I just I can’t meet your need at this moment. But here’s a service that can provide support or here’s somebody else that can facilitate the need that you have. Because there people are always in crisis. And then what do you do in terms of as you were saying, the self care piece, where do you go to find the peace? The joy, the fun? The laughter, the getting your soul fed? For me? I love beaches. I love the sand, I love the water there’s just something so wonderful about water. That’s my happy place, mountains are okay, but it’s the beach that’s my you get me near water. I’m happy woman.


Kate Bowler  45:49

Yeah, so I mean, because I can already hear in my head when people say, well, I mean, but I have this person, and they need a feeding schedule and that person has to be me so they are stuck into positions they can’t get their way out of but in a lot of people’s, here’s what you’re this is the space you’re describing, have discernment of what’s mine, what’s mine, what’s mine to do? That is like that is a tough place of wisdom, especially when we get those of us who get feel so much empathy. We jump at every noise. And then all of a sudden, our whole lives can be shaped around it. And then what are we going to do? Right, find a beach.


Angela Williams  46:29



Kate Bowler  46:30

We need more patients. Yeah, I have this great friend, Gary Haugen, who you would love. He runs International Justice Mission. It’s this group of lawyers who do these incredible cases around the world to end mostly they work on modern slavery issues. He has this wonderful staff. And but because so many of the cases they have are so heavy, and I mean exploitation of children a lot to do with sex trafficking. They have this bit in their day and they they were they there, they all have to stop working. And they have like a spiritual service but they have what they call the awkward pause and they institutionalize, and it’s the moment where you feel like the lurching where you just kind of have to stop. And then turn your focus. And I thought like, what an amazing thing to become the high capacity people that that know how to give, but also kind of know how to shift gears, even in our hearts, if it doesn’t feel natural.


Angela Williams  47:29

Now I am a work in progress. I will admit that because I just right now, I feel like I’m in an Esther moment, and so Queen Esther, in the Bible in the Old Testament, her uncle Mordecai came to her and said, who knows, but you recall for such a time as this. And so I feel as if I’m in an ester moment right now. And because I was called for such a time as this, I don’t want any grass to grow under my feet. I’m just moving, moving moving quick, fast in a hurry. But I have to also recognize there there needs to be it’s imperative that there’s balance. So I am I a work in progress.


Kate Bowler  48:19

Because when you say that, I think you’re like your dad’s now it’s the time feeling it does make us want to get up and go. Angela, everything you say I adore you. I want you to know that my moon phases just staring at you with complete love, thank you so much for this conversation, what a gift.


Angela Williams  48:36

Well, thank you for the invitation to be here I’ve enjoyed it.


Kate Bowler  48:51

Isn’t it just so obvious that Angela is also a preacher. She’s just got that joy in her advocacy, the way that she’s just like, she’s a pusher. She’s just nudging us all toward that feeling of being willing to experience and be part of interdependence. She is reminding us that we might be the exact people our communities need for such a time as this. There is this strange and beautiful truth, that somehow caring for others can whittle away at our own sorrow, that joy somehow can be the fuel to continue to bear witness to the impossible situations you might encounter in your own life or in your day job. So let’s bless you as you serve. Okay, as you keep caring. Bless you all, in these beautiful and terrible contradictions. You who serve others, knowing it comes at a steep cost. That time you’ll never get back. Those people who won’t ever be as grateful as you hope the paycheck or time off or benefits that will never add up to enough. May you be reminded that maybe you were called for such a time as this, to pour out your great great gifts for the sake of the other, to work toward this beautiful, terrible interdependence, even if community is much easier in theory than in practice. And on the days when you feel like your work is just a drop in the ocean, or that you want to throw in the towel, because you are far beyond burnout. May joy and delight be yours, my dears, and may it feel the beautiful hard work you do. And hey, if you’re just beginning a move towards surface, may you have the eyes to see the needs in front of you. The places where your gifts and passions and resources, meet your community’s deep needs. Or maybe you’re just starting to ask for help yourself, bless you. May your courage be met with kindness. You are my favorite kinds of people, and I adore you, bless you all.


Kate Bowler  51:25

United Way is an incredible organization that leans into the power of community. So if you check out our show notes at, you can find ways that you can get involved in the work they’re doing in your area. They’re really magical. I’m sure you got a sense of that. This is also the part of the episode where I get to say, oh my goodness, thank you to everyone who makes this work possible. Like our generous partners. This whole thing is really only possible because of the amazing people that the Lilly Endowment and the Duke Endowment who wanted to support this from second one. Thank you so much. Thank you also to my academic home Duke Divinity School, and our very new podcast network Lemonada  where their slogan is when life gives you lemons, listen to Lemonada so yeah, hilarious. And of course, a massive shout out to my perfect team. Jessica Ricci, I love you more than you will possibly be comfortable with. Harriet Tubman, Keith Weston, Glenn Higginbotham, Brenda Thompson, hoop Anderson, Kristen Bowser, Jeb Burt, and Catherine Smith. Hey, and we’ve got really fun things coming this fall. And I don’t want you to miss anything. So if you head over to Kate, you can sign up for my free weekly email. It’s called all kinds of things, insider information, video clips from this episode or others. Discussion Questions must read books free printables and more. And hey, it would be just a spectacular gift for me. If you would do a very annoying and helpful thing, which is Could you leave us a review on Apple podcasts or on Spotify. It just takes a couple of minutes, but it makes a huge difference to how other people see and support our show. And while you’re there, you know, make sure you don’t miss an episode. If you click on the subscribe button, then it will send you all the new episodes of air every week on Tuesday in particular. Also, we love hearing your voice. Leave us a voicemail. We might even use it on the air. Call us at 919-322-8731 All right, lovelies, I’m going to talk to you next week when I’m going to be speaking with a New Testament scholar and theologian. And t right. We had tea in his garden. Yeah, so basically hashtag life made. He’s amazing. He’s so smart. He will blow your mind but in the meantime, come find me online I Casey bowler This is Everything Happens with me Kate bowler.

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