Last/First/Last

I want to do something great with my life.

Some people would very generously suggest that perhaps I already am. Fighting cancer, Rachel’s video, Oprah, lobbying the government… lots of things that might shoehorn me into that category. But… truth be told, though I appreciate the kindness of their words, I don’t consider my deeds thus far ‘great’. I don’t say that out of some false sense of humility or modesty. I say it because I see myself as barely hanging on… “on the edge of a thread” as a friend of mine wrote in one of his songs.

The problem is, greatness takes time and time is something I may or may not have.

When I say “great”, I don’t mean that I want to be someone that everybody considers wonderful or someone that everyone likes, because pursuing the approval and acclaim of others is, in my opinion, the fastest way to nowhere. The bible even warns of such “greatness” in Luke 6:26…

“You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you.”

Fame and celebrity are fickle masters and ambition… well, I know a lot of ambitious people…. and I don’t like them very much. Ambitious people often don’t care who they tread on whilst climbing the ladder. It’s only on the way down, when they’re the ones being stepped on, does a realisation of the impact of their own behaviour set in. But the damage is already done by then.

But back to greatness…

I’m happy to live a quiet life. In fact, I’m happy just to live a life… period. Rich, poor, success, failure, struggle, easy street or any combination of the above… just to live would be pretty sweet in my books. To live without physical pain and sickness, even better. But I’ll take it, whichever way it comes. I have 3 very precious people depending on me. I don’t intend to let them down.

When I was first diagnosed, once the sting from that initial slap had died down, I started taking stock of my life. Those first few weeks before I started chemotherapy, before I knew if I had a chance, before I knew if my body would respond to the chemical onslaught… I began to consider what might be said of me should my end be sooner rather than later. If my life was a shout from a cliff top somewhere… what would the echo sound like?

Eddie Wilson once said: “What I want is songs that echo. The stuff we’re doing now is like somebody’s bedsheets. Spread ’em out, soil ’em, ship ’em out to laundry, you know? But our songs… I want to be able to fold ourselves up in them forever.”

I like that concept, even if it is from a movie character.

I want my life to be a life that, when it’s over and done, is a life that leaves behind memories and feelings that my loved ones can wrap themselves up in… find warmth in… find comfort in.

But how does one achieve this “greatness”?

In Mark 9:33 it says:

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, Jesus asked them,“What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

I’ll tell you a story….

While we were away on holiday in the USA recently we spent a lot of time in the hands of the Disney corporation. Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Hotels, even a Disney cruise. It was fantastic. Oprah said to us that life was all about energy and that we only have so much to go around…. she was right. My batteries needed recharging…. badly. And so off we went.

By the end of our 3 week trip we found ourselves back in Los Angeles for a short amount of time, not long enough to see good friends but long enough to hit up Disneyland one last time before we left. We had been told we had to try and get a table at the Blue Bayou restaurant, which is part of the Pirates of the Carribean ride. (Best ride there next to the Star Wars Tours ride, in my opinion). So we made a reservation, went off to Tom Sawyer’s island and went looking for pirate treasure.

Our reservation time rolled around and we found ourselves seated by the water. It was amazing. Lit only by lanterns and candles, it looked like an authentic New Orleans/Louisiana bayou type setting, complete with a jazz guitarist playing sad songs up on the balcony on what looked like a Gibson 335 semi-acoustic. Our server came over and introduced himself. A big black dude named Al. I liked him right away. Something Disney has done right is it’s employees. Our entire trip we were blown away at how nice and how helpful they were. You can have the biggest brand in the world but if the people “on the floor” day to day are jerks it’s not going to last long. But Disney staff, 100% in our experience, are the best advertising Disney has.

So back to Al…. he took our order and Rachel went off quickly to go to Splash Mountain, Jakob was asleep in his pram and Cody and I were playing with his Star Wars action figures on the table. Al and I got talking after he took our order, where we were from, how we ended up here, a little about my situation, and by the end of the conversation I said to Al: “If you have a wife and kids, don’t worry about “the stuff”. Don’t worry about what you feel you need to buy them or give them. Because one day, if you have to go, they’re not going to remember “the stuff”, they’re going to remember you.” I have no idea where it came from… it just happened. Al stood there for a minute in silence, turned to leave, turned back, turned to leave again, turned back, then finally said he was going to check on our order.

When Al came back he approached in a very different manner. He came slowly and deliberately and said that he had done some checking and that “everything was taken care of”. I asked him what that meant and he told me that our meal was free…. he was going to pay for it. I told him that it was an incredibly generous gesture but I couldn’t let him do that. By the time drinks and sides were added it was nearly $100 US dollars, maybe more. But he wouldn’t hear of it. I tried again but he said it was something he really wanted to do, and off he went.

I sat there, very thankful the room was quite dark because I was so moved by what Al had done I had tears rolling down my cheeks. Rachel came back, soaked, and we had our meal. I didn’t say much. I couldn’t.

When it was time to go I looked for Al. He came over and I stood up and just hugged him. I told him how much it meant to us, his generosity and selflessness. I told him that maybe he didn’t realise it but what he thought he did in secret was actually witnessed by my Father in Heaven.

In Matthew 25:40 it says: “The King will say… truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I told him that seeing as how he wouldn’t let me pay, all I could offer him was to ask that God look after him and his family. I knew he would because he’s been looking after me and mine. I put my right hand on his shoulder and said: “Jesus… bless this man.” And there it was, the warm blanket over my shoulders. God was there. We hugged again, both of us quietly with tears running down our face, we exchanged contact details and went on our way to get ready for our flight.

Do you think Al woke up that day and decided he was going to do something great? I doubt it. He was probably just thinking it was going to be another day at work. I thought it was going to be a fun day at Disneyland but I left being so deeply moved by one man’s generosity and care. His…. greatness. What Al did for us will echo in my heart for as long as I live.

And, I think, that’s how you become truly great. You help others. You put yourself last so that they can go first. You don’t have to have a million dollars in the bank. What is it you have in your hand? What are you good at? Are you a mechanic? Does someone you know need help with their car? Are you a gardener? Is someone you know unable to tend their garden? Are you an accountant? Does someone you know need help with their tax return? Are you a stay at home mum and you cook a mean pasta? Do you know someone who could really do with some help at meal time? Are you a cleaner? Do you know someone who needs their house cleaned every now and then? Are you a regular dude who sees a family in a restaurant and you want to pay their bill? Do it. These are the sorts of things that make you great. These are the things that change the lives of others. I speak from experience. I know. All of the things listed above are things people have done and continue to do for me and my family.

Jesus said: “What you do to the least of these…. you do unto me.”

“Love” is a verb… a doing word.

Have a think about it…. then look around, find someone that needs a hand.

We all do.

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~ by Kristian Anderson on July 26, 2011.

36 Responses to “Last/First/Last”

  1. Wow, that was a great story. Gave me a lot to think about, as I sit here literally moved to tears. God bless Al, and thanks for sharing that story with us.

  2. Beautiful story – God Bless Al, a truly important lesson to us all. That is what Jesus would do, go to the people needing help and being there. He came with a message of love, and the biggest gift you can give your family and the people around you is love, not fancy buildings and the most diamonds etc… Thank you Kristian, its a great ambition for all of us to be ‘great’ in this area and leave a legacy worth more than “things”

  3. You are changing lives. You are great.

    Thank you for your words and your fight and your light.

  4. Hi,
    I have gone back and read the advice you gave to Al over and over again. Wow! Greatness in a few sentences. Those that are truly great usually do not know it. It is their actions and reactions to other people that shows it to the rest of the world.

    Be well,

    Meghan

  5. I think that is a wonderful story about Al. I think he will always remember you and your family and I think you will always remember him. It is in these small things that we are remembered and in our small gestures that our greatness lies…

  6. You continue to inspire me with your wisdon, you are a beautiful writer and tell a wonderful story. Stay strong Kristian, and take one day at a time.

  7. And maybe you, in your quiet, and humble way, your wisdom evident yet again, changed this man’s life. And therefore maybe even that of his entire family.

    My love to you and your family, Kristian.

  8. This story made me cry! You and Al are both amazing. You will never forget each other.

  9. Kristian, can you please stop making me cry at work? Beautiful story, how right you are! Just what I needed to read on a day when I am feeling a bit sorry for myself – thanks for making me put it all back in perspective.

  10. You talk about your desire to achieve greatness, that you want people to remember you with warm emotions. Thing is, you are already there. Not because of tv appearences or your very public fight against cancer or your lobbying the government. But because of this. You share and by that you teach. You are an inspiration and I would like to meet the person who is not humbled by the experiences you share with us. Your stories are full of lessons so many of us need to remind us what makes us human. There can’t be anything more great any human can give to another. The warm blanket around the shoulder ? I feel it everytime I think of you and the things you write about. God bless you, Kristian. But then, he already has.

  11. Kristian. You say that you want to achieve greatness and you don’t think the things you have done have gotten you to that point yet. Can I just tell you a story.

    I got my breast cancer diagnosis in August 2009 – We had just shifted our whole life to Qld from Newcastle, NSW in April of that same year to start a business – the finances were tight and for every week my hubby had to look after me instead of being ou there working – it hurt us. I had to undergo Chemo, surgery, radiation and then Herceptin. That Herceptin, not a year or two before had cost people their houses to afford to live. Someone, just like you, fought and lobbied and wouldn’t shut up until the powers that be put it on the PBS list. Whoever that person was – most likely has saved my life. I don’t think we would have been able to afford it. Where would I be now. That person that fought for Herceptin has reached Greatness.

    So, you don’t think you have achieved greatness? Really? Do you realise how many people you have given a chance at life too? Do you have any idea how many lives you have saved by fighting for others? You know it wasn’t going to change your situation – you weren’t doing it for yourself – you were doing it for others. Isnt’ that what God asks of us? To help others? Isn’t that what you have done? You amaze me. I know when I was in the middle of my fight for life, I couldn’t do anything for anyone else. I didn’t have the strength.

    You already have a legacy mate. You have done so much. Not just with the PBS List. Just by doing the video for your wife – that made so many people stop and think about their lives. Perhaps they started to appreciate their families a little more. Going on Oprah and letting the world know your story – it not only made others in your situation have a platform, it gave them hope. It gave them someone that they could relate to. You gave Cancer a face. If that makes just one person dig into their pockets to give to the various cancer funds – then wow, what a legacy.

    Your blog here – do you have any idea how your words affect so many of us. Do you not realise you are bringing people back to God that were lost? You let us Cancer patients know we are not alone and our thoughts are not unusual.

    If I can be brutally honest, when I watched that Oprah show, I thought to myself – why him? Why does he get so much money when so many of us had to fight so hard without that help. But the minute I started reading your blog posts – I stopped thinking that. I have realised how deserving, how needed it was for you. For your family. You were the exact right person that needed to get the story across. And you haven’t used that fame for your own glory – you have pushed the pbs listing of Erbitex.

    So, humble Kristian, you may not feel like you have achieved greatness, but believe me, when you get to heaven’s gates, you will be welcomed with such open loving arms from your God. He will be so proud of you. He will see your greatness.

    Thankyou for all you have done Kristian and for all you are still yet to do. Your words today have reminded me that we can all achieve greatness in the smallest of actions each and every day. God Bless Al and his family too – what a beautiful action from him.

  12. I would right a real response to this message…..but there are none; at least none worth saying.

  13. So relieved to see your blog…..your last blog had me concerned….thank you for showing what ‘greatness’ is – the love from and for the Lord. May our ‘greatness’ work wonders through His grace, which He has given us. I know your ‘greatness’ has.
    the grandma from NC with non hodgkins lymphoma

  14. First, the Disney thing. I worked for “the Mouse” for 10 1/2 years in the 80s and 90s, and my sister is still there after 25 years. I have watched the quality of cast members go downhill over the years as Disney World has grown so large. They used to hire one of every four applicants, and now will hire anyone, even if they don’t speak English. It was most refreshing to hear about Al, someone who is “old-school Disney” and is willing to actually take the time to chat with the guests and go above and beyond. Thank you so much for sharing that.

    Secondly, I agree with most of the posts here, my dear, that you have achieved greatness in your own time. You are a dear, sweet man, one who believes in family, treating others as you would want to be treated, and living the best life possible in the eyes of God. You are “great” in the eyes of your wife and children; you are “great” in the eyes of those of us who read your blogs and become better people from having read them; and you are surely “great” in the eyes of the Father who has chosen you through whom to speak to us!

    Thank you for opening our eyes!

  15. Christian: while reading this blog tears rolled down my face … this is exactly what life and greatness is all about … people willing to help others , no questions asked and not wanting anything in return… I myself have come across some of these people and all they ever asked was for me to help out someone if they needed it… No matter what happens with you in your life ,no matter how long it be, you have helped me in my life …. I hope you live to be 100… love & prayers to you and yours 🙂

  16. I have no words to explain the thoughts going through my mind after reading your entry. God bless you and Al. You have touched my heart and your story touched my soul and makes me want to be a better person. Thank you.

  17. praying for u…keep up the good spirit

  18. Kristian,

    Believe it or not, you ARE doing something great by sharing your life with all of us through this blog. I look forward to reading every post and continue to pray for you and your family.

    Lisa in WV (USA)

  19. Kristian,

    You are a greater man than you give yourself credit for. You stood up and gave a voice to cancer patients who are in need of life saving medicines. You take time out of your life to write this blog filled with positive messages, even in the darkest of moments. You are a fighter, hero and inspiration to many people across the world. I feel blessed to have come across such a great person.

  20. Thank you for giving me the silent nudge I was needing tonight. Your message or should I say gods message has inspired me. I think about you and your family often and at night my little girls and I remember you in our prayers.

  21. Thank you Kristian, and indirectly Rachel, for opening your hearts and lives to us through this blog – you have inspired us and encouraged us in ways you will never know – and while we have breath in our lungs, you will not be forgotten. Know that you are regularly prayed for.
    Please pass our love on to Rachel, Kristian – we knew her and her family years ago.
    Blessings
    Maxine and Kelson

  22. you are amazing!!!! i think you should write a book. your words are so inspiring!
    god bless!!

    xoxo
    b

  23. All I can say is thank you for reminding me of what is important – your words will remain in my heart!

    My prayers are with you and your family

  24. You are an inspiration to me! I would be the first to buy your book if you would write one! 🙂 I pray for you!

  25. I often wonder about ‘what’ I will leave behind and how my daughter will remember me. A lot of what I do on an almost daily basis is part of the ‘pay it forward’ theory. It doesn’t cost anything to open a door for someone, or to give up your seat on the bus. But it might inspire others to do the same, thus making this world a better place.

  26. You are so right… I had one of these amazing men in my life, and unfortunately he lost his battle with cancer after only 6 months… he didn’t really have a chance to fight, and was very sick for most of the six months. I always knew that he was a special person, however the one thing that everyone is commenting on since he passed is the fact that even when he was lying in pain in his hospital bed, he was always worried about everyone around him. He would constantly ask me if I was going to be ok, when he was the one in immense pain and dying. I am crying as I write this and remember how amazing he was, so I wanted to say thank you for your wonderful stories and for sharing your journey. What my partner went through has a lot of similarities to your story, and somehow reading your posts has helped me deal with the pain of the last 8 weeks. Thank you.

  27. You have already done so much for people who couldn’t afford erbitux. A big thankyou Kristian. My husband is on week three of the treatment and hopefully it will reduce his tumours in the liver. Chemo is not working so well now. Is liver resection an option for you?

    • Liver resection is not possible for me, not yet. I have bi-lateral metastasis. I have been on Erbitux since February. If your husband has liver tumours, please look into SIR spheres treatment. It was very effective for me. He may not be eligible due to the way his liver is ‘wired’ but it’s worth a look. 85% success rate as far as I know. It’s an Australian invention… costs about $8,500 for the radioactive spheres but the procedure itself is covered by Medicare. If you have private health cover you will be covered for the entire thing.

  28. God is so beautiful, the way he touches our lives! Thankyou for sharing so poignantly how His beauty touched your lives and others; and it touches mine too.

  29. Hey mate,
    It’s been a while. Still love reading your blog. That guy Al is a champion as you already so eloquently described. I hope that I have that sort of impact on people around me from time to time although I know that I have missed so many opportunities already. Still praying for you all.
    Graham

  30. Kristian, you *are* doing extraordinary things with your life! This was a beautiful message & it came at the best time. Thank you for sharing it with us. Still thinking & praying for you & your family. ❤

  31. Kristian, You raise me up. God Be wtih you.

  32. Kristian, Clearly God has “armed you with strength…enabled you to stand on the heights…and stooped down to make you great” [2 Sam 22:33-37]. For His sake, for your sake and for the sake of others like me, total strangers, in another time zone, who find themselves leaning into the computer screen to catch every single word you speak…God speaks…you speak. — Praying — From down deep.

  33. Thank you.

  34. wow! like you say, bet neither one of you thought your day would go that way when you woke up that morning. just goes to show you how much our words and actions can touch others! your attitude, spirit, belief and heart continue to exude greatness on a daily basis…don’t sell yourself short, kristian.abundant prayers continue for your improvement, but i know that it often comes with a host of undesirable side effects. continue to treasure each day..hour..moment.. many blessings to you and your precious family!

    peggy
    (usa)

  35. […] Kristian underwent the cancer journey, according to his blog he started taking stock of his […]

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