Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 2 Corinthians 1:12
One morning this week during prayer, I had an image of my big brother that was so strong I wondered what on earth God was trying to tell me. I sat a bit longer that morning and I was flooded with memories and realized his short life had a purpose I needed to be reminded of. I thought maybe one or two of you might find this reminder helpful too.
Jim was two years older than me and stood more than a foot taller than me but one look at our dark brown hair, eyes and our noses and there was no mistake we were brother and sister. Jim was tough on the outside but he had a huge heart, and an even bigger sense of humor. He was reserved and humble but my, oh my, did he have a wide streak of stinker runnin right through the middle! His quiet disposition, easy temperament and deceivingly innocent smirk allowed him to get away with more pranks than any human being I have ever known! He made me laugh and he gave our parents gray hair!
When Jim graduated from high school he joined the US Navy where he proudly and honorable served our country. He got to meet amazing people and see more of the world than I ever will. He always looked out for the little guy, the forgotten guy, the underdog. He was honored more than once for saving another man’s life; something we didn’t know until long after the medals had been awarded. Once when he was on a long deployment in the Indian Ocean, he had a younger mechanic under his supervision that was pretty homesick. Jim in his soft-hearted nature arranged for a buddy who worked in the kitchen to bake a birthday cake to make him feel a little less homesick. Then in his typical prank-pulling style, he decorated the frosted cake himself…with red close-up toothpaste. He wanted to be kind and loving but the big burst of cinnamon toothpaste mixed with sugary frosting was his way of making sure he didn’t come across as a big softie.
I think the thing I love and respected most about my big brother was his ability to truly just be who he was. He never pretended to look or act like something he wasn’t…what you saw was what you got. He appreciated the simple things and he never felt the need to talk or dress or act a certain way to fit in or impress anybody. During his service to our country he made several stops in the Philippines and of all the places he traveled that was his favorite. I remember asking him once why he liked it there so much and he said it was the people. He was impressed with how little they had and how happy they were. Each time he left, he took with him a feeling of overwhelming gratitude. More than once he told me that those people changed the way he lived his life. It wasn’t their poverty that struck him; it was their wealth in the things that really matter that changed him.
When Jim got out of the Navy, he developed a hobby of traveling to a new tiny Kansas town each week. When he got there, he had a mission; the first thing he would do was find something to buy that would support a kid. It didn’t matter if it was buying lemonade from a front yard or candy bars and raffle tickets to support the basketball team he just wanted to leave a little something behind. The second thing he would do was sit on the tail gate of his pick-up or on a bar stool and find at least three people who would sit and visit. He could have sold igloos to Eskimos so having a conversation with a stranger was never a problem for Jim. I asked him once why he enjoyed these tiny town trips so much and he said “People just want to be treated in a kind and friendly way. I can’t do much about the crazy stuff goin’ on in the world but I can treat people the way we all want to be treated and then maybe they’ll turn around and do the same. It doesn’t take money or a degree or a certain kind of clothes to make a difference.”
Sometimes we get so bogged down with trying to do things “right” that we forget to do things “simple”. Sometimes we get so worried about what the world wants us to be, we forget to be who we were meant to be. Every once in a while we need to replace achievement with gratitude and we need to stop and think about what somebody else needs instead of what we need. The most important things in life aren’t the things we put in the closet or the garage, they are the things we put in our heart. Jim has been gone for almost 30 years but the lessons he taught in such a simple, humble way have impacted my life far more than any achievement, possession or experience. I think if I could sum up his life and the way it touched people it would be “Be who you are instead of somebody you’re not, be grateful and go out of your way to be kind and friendly.” I think Jesus would have agreed with his point of view; in fact I think they would have enjoyed a nice long visit on his tail gate!
A Seed To Plant: This week make it your mission to offer one simple act of kindness to a stranger…who knows where it might lead!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com