“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
As you read this passage from Matthew, ask yourself who has had the most positive impact on your life and why? Who would you most want to be like? Why? What do you want people to remember about you at your funeral?
When I played this game, the first person I thought of was my mother, and not just because we are celebrating her 85th birthday. Mother has spent years quietly serving others, seeking no credit. Has she ever gotten an award? I don’t see any plaques in her house but she and my father sponsored several refugee families. There are adults who can read because she started a tutoring program. There were the classes at our parochial school that she substitute-taught for free and the troubled teen-ager that she housed when the girl’s parents were at their wit’s end. And this says nothing about parenting us six kids. Most of us have plenty of plaques but none of us is her equal.
I also think fondly of many friends, living and dead, who have been unconcerned with recognition for all their good deeds. I think especially of the journalism professors who were my friends and are my role models – guys like Professor Chuck Zuegner. When Chuck died, Creighton hired me but no one could ever replace him. All of Chuck’s former students have tales about “Z”’s demanding form of caring that made a permanent impact. And Chuck (who looked sort of like an unmade bed) didn’t even have a doctorate. He never wrote learned articles that hardly anyone cites. All he did was touch hundreds of lives. I bet we all have special teachers like Chuck who labored tirelessly for their students.
What strikes me about people like Mother and Chuck is how they spread happiness just by being themselves. They are the opposite of the martyrs who do a lot of good but make everyone miserable in the process. They get their reward by parading their sacrifices while the people who live this Gospel are unassuming and joyful.
So I wish you happy thoughts of the people you know who have become great through unsung service. If they are still around, tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t save your tributes for their funerals. And think how you can imitate them.
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