Inspiration and renewed hope for our planet comes in many shapes and sizes.
Recently I was reflecting on the diverse people that I know…that ‘give back’ in a multitude of ways.
My friend of 45 years, Jeff, has been giving back for the length of time that I have known him. As a child he was homeless on the streets of Chicago and when I met him he was a member of a hippy commune that was located off of the Royalton blacktop outside Elkville, Illinois.
Jeff has become very successful and owns his own business in the United Kingdom. I was privileged to attend a meeting with him, the last time that we were there. His magnetic personality and his considered care for others…drew the crowd of nearly 100 people…like a magnet.
Jeff’s, well researched, plan for financial freedom is an exciting and sorely needed plan for many struggling working and middle class Brits.
I marveled, during the meeting that I attended, at his careful and loving concern for each individual that he spoke with. Jeff has a gift of total focus on the person that he is talking with and he projects the ability and gift of believing in yourself!
As we were walking in London, one evening, Jeff suddenly stopped and asked a couple that was taking photographs, if they would like for him to snap a photo of them. They were not only pleasantly surprised but grateful for his reaching out to them.
On our numerous visits with Jeff and Margo, and travels through Europe…the constant that I could rely upon was that my friend would never meet a stranger…and that he would seek to help each one in some way.
We have been members of the Presbyterian Church for 20 years. The first thing that I noticed when we began attending services…was that Presbyterians work!
I was a member of the Stewardship Committee for three years. My friend and colleague on the committee, Barbara, was somewhat older than I. I gave it my best…but I must confess that, at times, I bemoaned the almost daily need for, what the church often refers to as Sexton duties, and the conflict of my desire to enjoy my recent retirement and I wondered where the young people were for some of the more onerous duties?
I mentioned to Barbara that I had done all of the physical duties around the church, as a young man, but I did not realize that I would have the opportunity to repeat my youth.
Barbara turned 80 during our work together…I was in my 50’s.
When there were weeds to be pulled…there was Barbara.
When there were repairs to be done on our porte-cochere…there was Barbara.
When there was work to be accomplished for our Presbyterian Pre-School…there was Barbara.
We deliver Meals-on-Wheels to many elderly and shut in residents of Carbondale. Our delivery partners, until recently, are Jim and Sarah, who, again, are older than Mary Jane and I.
Sarah has been suffering with cancer…but you would not know it by her attitude. She and Jim are lovely people who are doing what they have always done…helping others…and not thinking of themselves.
My friend, Elizabeth, has a work ethic that just won’t stop. It was my privilege to hire her, and later her wonderful husband Ryan. I think Elizabeth was 23 when I hired her.
I have followed her carer with great interest and can not help but notice her passion for helping her fellow employees. Whether it be concern about staff being able to keep their jobs and not be laid-off or pay increases or working conditions…Elizabeth is immersed in the machinations and political minutiae of advocating for civil service staff.
Elizabeth is a backer of all things that are Southern Illinois University. No matter if it is the basketball team or the football team or the academic achievements of our wonderful students…she is on the frontline of cheering for and helping those who need assistance.
And, so, it seems to this writer…that the joy and satisfaction of living is found in the getting out of our own heads…and the helpining and ministry and care of others who are less fortunate than us.