Dearest EXPLORE reader,
James Robertson is a factory worker in Detroit. Each day he wakes up and begins a 21-mile journey to his job that pays $10.55/hour. He has no car, so James walks that distance each day. At the end of his 8 hour shift, he reverses course, and completes his 42 mile roundtrip journey on foot every weekday. He walks as he has no car that he can afford, so this has been James’ routine for the past decade.
A local news program heard of James’ story, and aired it one night on the news. A story to end the broadcast with so that we could all revel at James’ work ethic.
A 19 year old college student named Evan Leedy was watching the news that night and found the story to be quite touching. The next day he logged onto GoFundMe.com and established an account for people to donate to James, and set the goal at $5000 to help him get a cheap car and maybe make a few insurance payments for him.
Within a month there were over $350,000 in donations made on James’ behalf. Evan delivered the car to his new friend James, and Evan recounted, “Before James drove off in his new car to go home, he gave me a big hug and said ‘It’s not even about the money and the car, it’s about random strangers like you wanting to help a guy like me just doing what I was blessed to do.’”
I’ve written about my friend Pedro that I worked with in Florida. I’ve written about my old college roommate, the guy that mowed my yard, a dog I once found, and Greg Noble, whom I picked on in grade school and who eventually kicked my ass over it. I’ve chronicled my brother’s death from cancer, the breakdown of my marriages, and even Houston traffic. I’ve rattled on about words of wisdom from my parents, the stupid ducks by the river, and my children. I’ve touched on every subject imaginable and have found great “meaning” behind some of life’s most mundane (and not so mundane) experiences. Almost universally, these experiences are tied back to random moments of time where my life bumped into someone else’s. These little moments where fate brought us together, even if for a moment, and I was left writing about it years later. I was changed, most of the time for the better, and my life’s trajectory was altered.
No, I’ve never been touched by a news broadcast and been inspired to raise $350,000 for a stranger although I wish that I have. When I heard of this story and Evan and James, I suppose I found some really great inspiration not only in these two characters, but in a lot of other characters. Let me explain.
All around us, life is occurring. Sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it is very, very ugly. Sometimes it’s just flat out mundane. But rest assured, as this little blue marble spins in space, we are all bumping into each other at various times and having a variety of influences on one another. I think that every story that our lives create can be found to be inspiring. Much like James and Evan.
I think that we often minimize the beauty of our stories in our lives. We shrug our shoulders at some of the obstacles we have overcome and mumble “I just did what I had to do.” Or we humbly disappear into the shadows when someone wants to celebrate the impact we might have had on someone. We put our hands out and say “No thanks is necessary” and shyly let the subject quiet down.
If I sat down to type up the life story of the late Sam Champion, and how he overcame alcoholic parents and many life struggles only to become the Boerne High School principal that impacted so many lives that his funeral had to be held at the UTSA gymnasium in order to accommodate the numbers of people that came to pay their respects, you would say that he was a pretty extraordinary man. He, on the other hand, always laughed, gave you a hug and just told you to “Behave!” if you embarrassed him by telling him what he meant to you.
I have a friend that is a single parent of three young kids here in town, and is doing everything that she can to get by. She works with a local ministry because her heart is passionate about it, and makes very little income. She pawns her household items so that she can take her kids to the movies sometimes, and does everything she has to do in order to keep them happy and content. And you know what? Her kids are lights in a dark world. They want for nothing (though they have little), and they are learning what hard work and dedication look like via their mother. She is up late at night worrying, but her independence will always keep her moving forward. It’s almost like a Hollywood script, but it’s happening at the corner of Plant and Rosewood right here in town.
My friend Johnny quit his career in the restaurant industry because “God told me to.” He moved to the crummiest part of San Antonio, started a church, and stands around on street corners in the dead of night and prays with people. He takes people sleeping on benches into his home and feeds them. How many lives has he changed? How many people are out there right now telling the story of this tattooed guy named Pastor Johnny who helped them get out of the gutter and ultimately on to living a great life? How many generations will be impacted because of one guy handing out food at 2am to broken people? And how many of you have ever heard of him?
The story of James and Evan is a great one that received a fair amount of publicity. The news covered it, Facebook posted all about it, and millions of people smiled due to Evan’s kindness. I smiled, too. However, I think that stories like James and Evan are literally everywhere….if you look for them. Heck, you are probably the key character in a story that someone is telling about your impact on their lives at some point. You may not even know about that impact, but I have to believe that all of us have the ability to impact each other in very profound ways. What seemed mundane to you, altered another’s life. And frankly, I find that to be very beautiful.
Look around you. Breathe in the experiences of this life, and dig until you can find the beauty in the stories you are witnessing. The stories you need to know about don’t always air on the evening news, but rather, they play out every day and in every way that you seek to find them.
Welcome to August. May you take this month to really focus on the beautiful things that your life contains. EXPLORE your heart and witness the amazing stories unfolding around you. They are there for the taking, and maybe you’ll even be inspired to write your own new….amazing….chapter.
Benjamin D. Schooley