This morning, a friend forwarded this “quiz” to me, compiled by the late Charles Schulz (with a few editorial adjustments.) It asked,
–Who are the five wealthiest people in the world?
–Who are the last five Heisman trophy winners?
–Who are the last five winners of the Miss America pageant?
–Who are ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize awards?
–Can you name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress?
–Can you name the last decade’s worth of World Series Winners? (*My oldest son need not respond to this one.)
Not surprisingly, I didn’t know the answers to most of these. And frankly, if it had not been for controversy over some of the recipients, I might not have known any! Then the quiz went on–
–Can you name a teacher (or preacher or instructor) who impacted your life and character?
–What three friends helped you through a really difficult time (or carried your burden with you)?
–Can you name five people who taught you something significantly worthwhile?
–What people have demonstrated their appreciation for you?
–What five people do you enjoy spending time with?
The conclusion that’s drawn from this quiz is obvious. True and lasting greatness is not found in the spectacular goals and achievements of the elite, but in the simplest acts of kindness shown by those who daily touch the lives of others in the most unassuming ways.
And yet, ironically, men so rarely seem satisfied with merely caring for the needs of those around them, as they perpetually rush forward in the relentless pursuit of a misguided understanding of what “greatness” is. Will we ever learn? Just look around you! Is there really any honor in being a U.S. president remembered primarily for his indiscretions with an intern in the Oval Office? Or a world-renowned golf athlete brought to the dust when his multiple infidelities surfaced? Or the bitter owner of a spectacular multimillion dollar hotel chain, with no one but her dog to leave her fortune to when she died? What did it profit the one who gained the whole world, but lost his soul?
We ought to know better. Over and over, Jesus defined what true greatness is:
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:1-4)
“They had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And [Jesus]…said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all’” (Mark 9:23-32.)
“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve” (Matt.20:26-28.)
“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:11, 12.)
Unquestionably, the greatest impact that we can ever have is found closest to where we are, in serving others as we serve God. It can only be found in the humility that comes from a God-centered focus, where we truly know Who God is, who we are, and what God requires of us.
When I read the quiz mentioned above, I immediately thought of some of the “greatest” people in my life:
–My sister Dale who called me at a very discouraging time last summer, when my 91 year old father-in-law’s leg wound turned out to be a serious staph infection, requiring daily trips to the hospital for painful treatment. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the problem, Dale challenged me to wake up each morning anticipating new opportunities to see God’s grace shown to us, one day at a time. It totally changed my perspective and gave me the strength I needed to overcome!
–A woman whose name I don’t remember, who worked with her husband to lay a concrete curb in our driveway the hectic week before my daughter’s wedding, when I was so overwhelmed with things that had to get done. My husband called my cell phone saying, “Do you know what she’s doing? Weeding your front garden!” When he asked her why, she said, “I was so blessed by people who helped me when my own daughter was getting married that I told the Lord I’d take every opportunity He sent me to bless other mothers the way I had been so blessed!”
–An old friend, Ronnie Buck, who stopped at a mall on her way to see my daughter in the ICU after a car accident years ago, and bought me a whole new outfit, since she knew that I stubbornly refused to leave my daughter’s side. I’ve never forgotten how her kindness lifted my burden.
–My husband Dan, who has never left my side during my most difficult trials, but has faithfully walked through every adversity with me, refusing to allow me to wallow in depression, while strengthening my faith in God.
–A friend, Pat Lynn, who brought meals, sat with me, and did the most menial tasks to care for me when I broke my leg.
There are dozens and dozens of others who have shown me amazing examples of what true greatness is through their sacrificial acts of servanthood. Because of them, life is richer and more meaningful.
I will probably never remember record-breaking accolades… but I will always remember kind acts of others that lifted me when I needed the strength and endurance to keep going. Just as Jesus taught us, that’s true “greatness.”
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