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.