As of November 7, 2019, I have outlived my Dad. I knew over 22 years ago that he was too young passing away just prior to turning 58. However, the perspective I have today deeply intensifies that feeling. I have much more life I want to live and goals to accomplish, as I am sure he did.
My Dad approached life in the manner to “be a blessing.” He was engaged and supportive, not only of me, my brothers, and my mom; but of cousins, nephews, friends, neighbors and even strangers. He treated anyone he was in a conversation with as the most important person in the world to him at that moment, because they were. He would focus on the person. I think he would go crazy today if one of his grandchildren were to check their phone while talking to him.
He would be celebrating his 80th birthday in a few weeks and I am unsure if he would be happy about that fact. As a long-time cigarette smoker, his lung capacity at this point in his life would not be great and if he considered himself a burden, as opposed to a blessing, he would have been miserable.
I am an avid fan of Dr. Kevin Elko, an author and leadership consultant with a focus on Sports, and I recommend getting his Monday Morning Cup of Inspiration. He has a saying; “I’m not looking for blessings to come into my life; I’m looking to be a blessing in someone else’s life.” That was a life statement for my Dad as it is for my Mom’s cousin, Sister Carol, who at age of 84 still serves others as she has done her whole life. She currently volunteers at several organizations where she tends to those in society who are struggling. She says she will never stop serving others and being a blessing. I love the words she uses – “I plan to live until I die.” Nelson Mandela noted: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
The concept of ‘Pay it Forward’ embodies the principle – be a blessing. It is responding to a person’s kindness by being kind to someone else. Paying blessings forward is a form of doing thanks. It is no surprise that my Dad’s favorite holiday was Thanksgiving, a day where we stop and reset our heart and eyes to look for the blessings and good that is all around us. Sharing my thoughts and life lessons in this blog is one way I can pay it forward and be a blessing to others. In Luke 4:38-38, Simon’s Mother-in-law pays it forward, after Jesus cured her fever, she immediately got up and started serving.
We can choose to be a blessing to those we meet and be someone else’s aide, support, encouragement, luck or godsend. CS Lewis said, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” We don’t need to go on a mission trip to live missionally. It’s easy to love your neighbor on a mission trip halfway around the world for a week or two. The real test is loving your literal neighbor continuously – the one who doesn’t clean up after their dog or has roosters that crow nonstop throughout the day. God isn’t asking us to travel halfway around the world for Him, but He is asking us to live missionally where we are.
How often do we stop and engage our neighbors in conversation? Do we emphatically listen and give them the gift of our attention? We may never know the impact of our being a blessing. Pope John Paul 2, arguably the most influential Pope of the past 100 years, became a priest due to the friendship of a family friend – a tailor.
I know my Dad had that influence. I have heard, repeatedly, over the years from those who he blessed. At my recent 40th High School Reunion I had class=”=””mates I hadn’t seen in decades express their admiration of my Dad. I strive to honor him by following his example.
In John’s Gospel (13:34-35) Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This new commandment builds off the Old Testament scripture from Leviticus (19:18), “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus urges love for enemies and neighbors beyond one’s fellow Israelites. Mother Theresa said, “When we see God in each other, we will love one and another as God loves us all.”
I talk a lot about making a difference in life. My purpose is to intentionally add positive value to those around me as my Dad did. Be a blessing to someone else. Show Jesus’ love to the men and women God has placed in your life near and far. Your time is now … live until you die.