How Dwight Lacy Left an Impression

 

Some stories start with something uncanny.

Not dramatic, necessarily, but something so unexplainable that you can only shake your head in wonder and think: That must be God.

This is one of those stories.

Back in the 1970s, Dwight Lacy was a young businessman running finances for a chemical company in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a good gig—the firm was soon to be acquired by a corporation based in New York City, and Dwight would be offered a chance to work on Park Avenue.

Dwight held degrees from the University of West Virginia and Harvard Business School. Everything he had done in his early career was according to a business plan. The plan was working, and he kept moving on up.

But somehow, Dwight began to get what he called “an impression.” Not a dream or a clear vision—just a deep sense welling up within him. He had never experienced anything like it before.

The impression was this: “I should be at a retreat center somewhere in the West.”

Dwight had never experienced a retreat, and the West for him meant Colorado or New Mexico. This notion “came out of some place I wasn’t thinking about,” says Dwight.

And so he tried to dismiss the idea as crazy. It made about as much sense, he thought, as deciding “I wanted to go be a photographer for National Geographic in Malaysia.”

But for two years, the impression wouldn’t let him go. Eventually, he asked for advice from someone he knew who served on the board of a retreat center in Indiana. That man had a suggestion for him: Write to a guy named Bill Cody at Laity Lodge in Leakey, Texas. Dwight couldn’t find Leakey on a map, and he had never heard of Laity Lodge or Howard Butt, Jr., but he enveloped his résumé and sent it along.

Cody called Dwight, and, later, took him to lunch in Cincinnati. They talked about the intersection of faith and work and Howard Butt, Jr.’s passion for ministering to business people.

Cody didn’t really have a job to offer, but he asked Dwight: “Do you feel drawn to do this?”

Dwight says he’d never heard “drawn” used in that way, but he thought of his abiding impression.

“Yes,” he said. “I guess I do.”

No plans were made that day, but looking back, it’s clear something was set in motion. Many months later, Dwight was driving in the Frio River to see Laity Lodge for the first time—and to begin a job that would last nearly 40 years.

“It was a small organization,” Dwight notes. “Sometimes you’d be shifted around not just to one area, but to several different ones.” He helped promote books and videos for Howard Butt, Jr., then took over internal operations. For a year, he was an occasional retreat director. He oversaw Human Resources, ran the program formerly known as Free Camps, help lead the Laity Lodge Leadership Forum, and of course, managed finances.

Eventually, Dwight became CFO, the position he held until his retirement two years ago. Even in retirement, Dwight has continued to serve as needed during the search for a new CFO (see here).

 

 

Throughout his tenure, Dwight was celebrated as a selfless leader. He cherishes two books of photographs and thank-yous from Foundation staff that were given to him in the waning years of his service—a testament to a man who did a little bit of everything and did it all with excellence and grace.

In his time at the Foundation, Dwight saw a lot of change. This summer, he sat on a bench outside Laity Lodge’s dining room and pointed out the most recent changes in the renovated grounds and buildings. He was not just noting them. He was also still absorbing them.

“Many years ago, the path from the parking lot was a gravel walkway,” he said, pointing at the new stone path. “For some people,” Dwight noted, “the gravel walkway symbolized something to them about coming to Laity Lodge.” Change is good, and change is challenging—both things are true at once. “People may remember they had a conversation with someone under a tree, and they would like to have that tree be there because it was special in their lives.”

The sacred things—the big and small pivotal moments in our lives—often are connected to ordinary things: a gravel path, a random tree, the color of a wall. People have cherished how the Lodge has held onto those things as much as possible.

Dwight is one of the fixed things—a rock-solid part of the Foundation’s story—and he’s also one of the changing things, as he embraces a new season of life.

He sat on that bench at the Lodge, absorbing it all.

Not a dream or a clear vision—just a deep sense welling up within him. He had never experienced anything like it before.

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LLYC Summer 2018

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