Thursday, June 22, 2006
Becoming a Force for Good
No, I could never identify with those do-gooders giving away years of their lives helping others. Peace Corps - ick! Wiping the eyes of a half-starved, African child - no way. Going places that might smell bad - not for me.
I always thought of myself as a strange little man with passions that mattered to no one else. Though I sought out people like professors of philosophy and members of Mensa, I encountered few who really cared about the same things I did.
Nearly every guy I ever met really wanted to avoid talking about anything of even remote interest. Sports, cars and bragging about girls filled their heads, with an occasional movie, TV show, or work related topic for seasoning.
Every female I knew then engaged in the forensics of other's private relationships; they brought considerable analytical prowess to parsing who dated who, and why; who wore what, when, and for what reason; what celebrity committed which minor or major offense; and so forth.
Alas, baby pictures bored me. Stories about kids put me to sleep.
The things that interested me then and now are like - How and why do things really work? No, really exactly, completely and fully how: be specific, detailed, and carefully justify your answer.
For as long as I can remember, I knew the first story explaining most anything, the first notion that's planted in the ordinary mind, grows like a giant weed and crowds out any new growth. But the full story blooms only after careful tending to the garden of ideas. Try it again: how do things really work? I want details. No, really, lots of exact details. (See prior posts below.)
In addition to a passion for detail, I also crave "big picture" understanding. Why do things work? Why be good? What kind of life is most worth living?
But my horizons as a young man, for myself, were limited to what I could see close about me. My wife, my child, my job, my house, my debts - my, me, mine. My ego.
But somehow, as time passed, I began to take a genuine interest in other people. I started to enjoy looking at photos of other people's kids. I started listening more.
Like most people, I still work, I have a family, I take pleasure in television comedies, wine, cigars (though not often), music, museums, travel, etc.
But unlike others, one fine fall day a few years ago, as I drove with the top down to give a speech, it occurred to me that I had become a force for good. My speech that day persuaded people to give money to charity. In the space of six weeks, with a lot of help, I raised over $400,000.00.
A huge sum for a guy with absolutely no rich friends. For the donors, all ordinary working people, the money represented actual sacrifices.
Now, I find myself teaching Sunday school. I find myself leading prayers. I find myself helping people through crises. I find myself an authority figure, not just to my own children, but to other adults.
I find myself puzzled, wondering what happened. How did a typical, self-centered guy change to become a little less self-centered, a little more giving?
No longer a sponge, soaking up the good given by others, I now produce more blessings than I consume. How did that happen?
True believers will point to my faith, and say it changed me. Could be.
At this point in life, I find my self happier and more productive most days than I've ever been. I'm much nicer now than ever.
Too bad it took so long to reach this point.
I have been asking for a miracle story from readers of my blog (I have trouble seeing them, myopia you know.) so far no on has come forward but here is one I can really appreciate and believe in.
Thanks for such an encouraging story. The Holy spirit isn't just inspiring Bono's lyrics He's making a diffrence elsewhere as well.
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