Category Archives: selflessness

Courage in the Face of Cancer

I hope you’ll find this story as inspirational as I did. I ran across it while visiting HelpOthers.org.

I work at a Care Center where most of the people are elderly. About a year and a half ago a 59 year-old lady came to us who had cancer. She had to have her right leg amputated and she didn’t have a family to take care of her after the operation.

This lady was a quiet lady who mostly stayed to herself. But in the afternoons, when she was feeling well, she would go visit the other residents in the home. She would visit a lady who was blind and read to her. She would go into the room of a young girl with severe cerebral palsy and sing to her. In her quiet gentle way, she would go about the Care Center doing good.

She passed away last Wednesday and after her passing, stories are coming forward of her quiet acts of kindness in her own hour of sorrow.

We never know what impact we have upon others. She had every reason to be bitter, to be angry, or to be swallowed up in her own grief.  But she wasn’t. She didn’t have a family and probably felt forgotten, but her small and quiet acts of service made an impact upon the entire Care Center.

Each of us are better people for having known her. We have pledged to be more aware of the service that we can offer to others.

What an amazing outlook on life! She had every reason not to love and serve, yet she did. Small, silent acts of service speak volumes about a person’s character.

Do you share the same attitude? What things tend to paralyze you from serving and loving others?

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Filed under Challenges, making a difference, selflessness, Serving Others, Uncategorized

Making Music

I thought I’d start the week off with a little inspiration. Enter Andy Mackie. At 71 years young, he’s chosen to spend the remainder of his life inspiring kids with music. CBS News recently did a story on him. Here are the highlights:

After his ninth heart surgery, Mackie’s doctors had him on 15 different medicines. But the side effects made his life miserable. So one day he quit taking all 15 and decided to spend his final days doing something he always wanted to do. He used the money he would have spent on prescriptions to give away 300 harmonicas, with lessons. When he didn’t die the next month, he bought a few hundred more.

Forget a wickedly awesome vacation. Nope. Just spending the remaining days of his life giving away hope in the form of harmonicas and music lessons. For all he knew, he might have lived a few more weeks, but…

It is now 11 years and 16,000 harmonicas later.

To keep the kids interested in music as they get older, Mackie now spends the bulk of his social security check making what he calls “strumsticks.” He’s given away thousands of these, too. He also buys store made instruments for the kids that show special interest and provides free lessons to everyone by getting the older kids to teach the younger ones.

What a selfless man. It’s people like him that humble me completely. The fact that he even thought of doing what he did is amazing, let alone actually doing it! I hope his story encourages you as it did me.

Got a story of someone putting themselves last? Think it would make a great “in the news” post? Leave a comment or email me at becominglast@hotmail.com.

Andy gave up his medicines. What can you give up to use the money for someone else?


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Filed under Examples of Sacrifice, In the News, making a difference, purpose, selflessness, Serving Others, Uncategorized

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Most everyone has heard the term, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The implication being if you judge something by the outside, you may be completely wrong about what is going on inside. For example, recently, a man thought to have been in a vegetative state – awake but not conscious of his surroundings – was actually misdiagnosed. For 23 years, he sat, able to process what was going on around him, yet unable to communicate due to being paralyzed.

When it comes to serving others, it is also very easy to “judge a book by its cover.” It’s easy to see the needs of many: homeless, hungry, poor, thirsty..etc. Those are major and we should focus plenty of attention on them.

But there are other needs that get overlooked…

The other day someone told me, “If someone is in a Starbucks, they don’t need you to buy them a coffee.” It’s easy to see their reasoning (the person is well off and doesn’t need the hand out) and I can understand there are more obvious people (see above) who could use help, but I don’t think we should so easily dismiss the ramifications of living love like that each day.

It’s easy to give money to a charity – it soothes the conscience. And we should – God cares for the poor and disadvantaged. BUT, His concern does not stop there. Think of who could be behind you in line, smiling and masking the pain:

  • A mother of two recently abandoned by a cheating husband.
  • A father whose paycheck doesn’t quite stretch as far as it used to and doesn’t know how to tell his family he lost his job.
  • A son whose just been told his mom only has a year to live.
  • A young couple who has just been told they miscarried.
  • A successful coach who is losing his marriage and kids.
  • A businessperson, well-dressed and refined, yet so alone and hiding the addictions he uses to cope.
  • A student contemplating whether to end his or her life.

The list could go on. The needs may not be as apparent, but it is not for us to judge whether they are worthy to be served or not. We are called to lay down our lives for all: rich or poor, black or white or asian or whatever, country or urban, male or female.

There are times we may never fully know if we made any difference at all. Maybe we waste $5 by buying someone a coffee who just won the lottery. Oh well. I’m willing to take that chance because, more likely, that $5 is going to tell someone a much-needed “You are loved.”

Bottom line: We should never be so pretentious and believe it our job to pick who we serve. Christ loved. Period. We are to love. Period.

So what do you think?

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Filed under making a difference, selflessness

Kudos to Mack Brown

Mack Brown may not have won the National Championship, but you’ve got to give it to him. The man loves his wife and wants to make sure she and everyone knows it.  Read this short little article Rick Reilly wrote for ESPN. What a great way to serve his wife by going to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of anything sketchy!

If you’re in Pasadena right now and want to take a picture with Texas football coach Mack Brown, you might find it a peculiar experience.

Brown has some very specific rules for taking pictures with fans. He knows that today’s sports celebrities live in an age when one misunderstood iPhone snap can suddenly have you back managing an Applebee’s. So if you want a shot with Brown, who tries for his second national title Thursday night in the BCS Championship Game, you’ve got to follow his three rules:

1) He never takes a picture with a female without a “Hook ’em Horns” sign up. That way everybody knows where his hands are and what they’re doing.

2) If he’s with his wife, Miss Sally — and he usually is — she takes the pictures. Nobody else. That way nobody can come up behind him and make him look stupid, or salacious, or drunk. Nobody can pretend their hand is his and put it somewhere that isn’t Vatican-approved. Nobody can flip anybody off, nobody can set him up. Miss Sally won’t cotton to that kind of behavior. “Sally knows her way around every camera, cell phone, video camera, you name it,” says Brown, 58. “If it’s out there, she knows how to work it.” (Wish there were somebody like that at Best Buy.)

3) He never takes a picture with only one female. “Always two or more,” he says. “It just looks better.”

via Rick Reilly’s Go Fish – ESPN The Magazine.

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Filed under Examples of Sacrifice, In the News, selflessness

Little Man, Huge Results!

Apparently little guys can do big things! According to MSNBC, Jonathon Slack, a seven-year old boy from the Chicago area, raised four TRUCKLOADS of food and toys for a Chicago shelter. Put simply: WOW.

You can read the story on the news site. I don’t want to steal their words and just rehash it. Instead, I just want to offer some thoughts I took away from reading about our young hero.

First, what he did was hard difficult impossible easy. I’m big, bad Becoming Last guy and this kid just did what I have started and gotten side-tracked doing twice! He saw a need, printed some flyers, gave them out, and bam! Four truckloads! I get caught up in making the flyer perfect, getting all my ducks in a row, and he just stepped out and did it. There’s something to be said for planning, but there’s also something to be said for just doing it. What he did was something we could all do.

Second, it got personal. Jonathon’s mom said he had never shown empathy for this type of thing before. It all developed after seeing a homeless woman outside of Macy’s. It got personal for him. I think we all have up these layers of protection from things like this. We’ve built thick skins from seeing impoverished people on TV, in magazines, and homeless people on the street. Poverty and hurting people are just a category that is out there. It’s part of life. But when an issue hits you personally, it changes you.

Third, start small. Yes, he got four truckloads. But he only took ten days! 10 days = 4 truckloads! I think we sometimes feel a little overwhelmed when we think about serving or giving. Don’t feel like you have to end poverty or hunger or homelessness or whatever your cause. Just start small. He made flyers. He gave people 10 days. Look what happened.

Fourth, just do it! Yeah, so I robbed Nike’s old slogan and that’s lame, but I’m serious. If you have an idea, do it. Pursue it. Get a few friends together. Hold a family meeting. You don’t have to get your church’s backing or the backing of an organization. Sure, they can help and that could come later, but don’t be paralyzed by the mindset of, “I can’t do this” or “I can’t lead.” Just start small. Whatever it is you are passionate about, it is you that has the passion and just like Jonathon, you can make a difference.

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Filed under hunger, In the News, selflessness, Uncategorized

Better Than a Fruitcake

I forgot to write about this a few days ago and even though Christmas is gone, I can’t let it pass. I want to give some Becoming Last props (that’s less prestigious than a Dundee on The Office) to my niece. You see, for many people Christmas and all the gift giving can become very stressful. Just type in “christmas stress” in Google and you’ll find studies, helpful advice, and even a Christmas Stress Relief Game.

It seems most people want the holidays to be perfect, but budgets are tight and the mandatory gift giving can make things a bit stressful. Enter my niece Jennifer.  She has one of the most generous hearts I know. She saves and saves year-round to be charitable for things like Operation Christmas Child and Christmas. And hands down, she gives the best gifts.

Not your ideal gift!

Take this year for example. Her sister Kim has gone off to college so they aren’t as close as they used to be. I remember them growing up and they were inseparable. But now, their lives are just different.

And Jennifer really has every right to just buy something lame for everyone. She doesn’t have a ton of money and no one expects her to go all out. But, she’s a giver, she loves to make people happy, and she’s creative.

This year, she searched, dug, and rummaged through my mom’s house to find all the old pictures of her and her sister together. Once she found them all, she put them together in this HUGE collage Kim could hang in her new apartment. It didn’t cost much, but it was priceless judging by Kim’s reaction.

I’m very proud of my niece. She takes the time to think through what people would love. She gives the very best gift she can giver her limited resources. She gave Starbucks to my wife because my wife loves the stuff. She gave something (shows you how observant I am, can’t remember…) to my mom, which she loved, because it was something Jennifer had noticed and bought knowing it would speak love to her grandmother.

So if you have to buy presents for someone’s birthday or you’re already looking toward Christmas 2010, remember…

Be creative. Don’t be afraid to make something. Study the other person. What would they love? What makes them happy?

It doesn’t have to break your bank or cause a mental breakdown to give a great gift. Just some time, some thought, and a tender heart. Thanks Jennifer for that great lesson.

How can you Become Last today?

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Filed under selflessness, Uncategorized

Steps Toward Change

Not many people would say, “I don’t care if people don’t have food or water.” I hope I’m not too far off in believing most of us genuinely want to help people out. The problem is our lives aren’t oriented in such a fashion where that is possible.

Many of us spend so much time working because we’ve made financial decisions which dictate us working X amount of hours to pay for everything. Right or wrong, we’re hindered by those decisions. Our entertainment also takes up our time. There’s hardly a passion you could name which could not be satisfied within hours in America. Because of this, we spend a lot of our time feeding those passions. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but time consuming.

My point is this: If you want to begin helping others, begin making one intentional decision in that direction each day.

Change rarely occurs overnight. We have developed our patterns of behavior over the course of our entire lives! Rarely does that change automatically. It’s a process. It’s a set of determined, thought out decisions that eventually became the rhythm of your life.

So where can you begin today? What can you do tomorrow? If you’re at a loss, take some time and explore other posts as you may find some encouragement or inspiration.

What does the symphony of your life sound like? The best orchestra did not get that way overnight. It took years and years of practice. How can you begin to intentionally move yourself in the direction of Becoming Last?

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Filed under christian, making a difference, selflessness, Time