I’m sitting in a certain place recently, and I’m not going to say where, or around who, because I don’t want anyone to think that I’m looking down on people. I’m just observing, and I just realized I’m so far removed from who I used to be, and I can’t believe adults still act like this.
“There’s got to be more to life than thinking all about yourself,” I’m telling myself in my head. “You would think they have discovered this by now. How long does it take for them to find out?”
Life is not about you. It’s a simple yet profound truth that I’m so grateful to have discovered. This message changed my life forever and it comes from my life verse, Philippians 2:3-5. I found this scripture when I was almost 22 years old, at a major turning point in my life.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”
By the way, I would encourage you to find a life verse, something that will drive you to stand by every day of your life. Having this life verse is like a guide post that constantly directs me. This life verse guides all of my other Be Great 8 principles too.
The apostle Paul wrote this verse in his book of Philippians. I love the apostle Paul. I feel like I can relate to his life. He used to be one way (murdering Christians), then encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, and turned another way (being the biggest proponent of Jesus and the Christian faith).
When I discovered INAM (it’s not about me), I was a totally different person than I am right now. At that time, at the age of 22, I could have cared less about my future. I didn’t want to talk about God. I didn’t care about my health the way I do now. I wasn’t worried at all about being disciplined, focused, and doing the right thing to be a good example. All I was interested in was myself.
I can’t talk in depth about it in this devotional, but here are four bullet points of who I used to be before I changed my life around:
• I was failing out of school.
• I was broke and $8000 dollars in credit card debt.
• I drank and partied all the time.
• I hated religious people.
I was on a road to nowhere. Thankfully God thought I was important enough to not give up on me. He brought me to the projects of Youngstown, Oh and it was here that I met a little girl that changed my life forever. (If you want to read more about that story I copied and pasted that chapter from my book below).
After my experience in the hood, I couldn’t go back to normal. I felt called to a mission and I’ve been on that mission ever since.
I started out as a social worker/counselor and I worked with all types of people. I spent most of my time with at-risk children between the ages of 6-18. I worked in a group home with foster adolescents just out of jail; I provided one on one mentoring to inner city kids; I worked in summer camp programs with inner city kids; at the VA hospital with geriatric veterans, and then most recently before FMU, served as a director for a small non-profit after school program for at-risk kids. I worked in a world of drugs, crime, abuse, and violence, and with a population that wasn’t really motivated to make more of their life.
I then became a fitness coach. I did programs in schools and in an inner-city hospital. I started this company in the suburbs and now the main population I work with is suburban, middle to upper class families. I work with a lot of kids and families that have resources and make up a progressive population that does want to make more of their life.
All of these experiences and the variety of people changed my perspective on so many levels.
For the purpose of this devotional, let me say this, God gave me all of these experiences to learn a lot about humanity and human behavior. Here’s a major truth that I’ve learned…
No matter what race, ethnicity, or language…
No matter what socioeconomic status, place of residence, or educational achievements…
No matter what age, gender, or faith…
People WILL NOT change unless they want to. I tried to change the world and realized I couldn’t. It’s not that I’ve stopped trying, but freedom came when I stopped worrying about it. There’s only so much you can do. Do your part and then keep your ship sailing.
I’ve adopted this, “I care but I don’t care attitude.” I care about you and I will be here in a second if you want to enhance your faith or your health or your life. But I don’t care enough to keep pursuing you if you don’t. That’s Gods job. I will plant seeds and water them. He will make them grow.
Living a life that’s not about you isn’t easy. I sometimes want to throw a tantrum like a toddler because I can’t get it right. I have to constantly remind myself of what Paul says in Phil 2:3-5.
• Have the same mindset of Jesus.
• Do not be selfish.
• In humility, look to the interests of others before yourself.
Nevertheless, helping others is important and it’s essential.
Knowing these 6 Lessons about Helping Others can help you continue to value others above yourselves and overcome your selfish ambition and vain conceit:
1. IT’S A NECESSITY
The second you realize that life is not about you, and it is about helping other people, is the second your life becomes that much more meaningful and worthwhile to live. There are people out there who need you. You have no time for pity parties or “poor me” attitudes. When you wake up and start your morning you need to ask yourself, who needs me today? Who can I be there for? Who can I reach out to? This is the type of thinking that puts you in action mode, in the driver’s seat, and on offense in the game of life.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
It doesn’t always have to be a grandiose thing that you come up with to try to solve the world’s problems either. It’s the little things that make a BIG difference. Like helping a new student feel welcome on his or her first day of school, helping your friend with homework, or helping an elderly lady cross the street.
3. GIVE YOUR TIME
Truthfully, the best gift you can ever give is a portion of yourself. Reach out your hand, give your shoulder, lend an ear. You would be surprised at how powerful something as listening is. “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson-a famous essayist, poet, and lecturer in the 1800’s).
4. NOT EVERYONE WANTS IT THOUGH
Like I mentioned earlier, when I was a social worker I wanted to save everybody. But not everyone wanted it. Even if they said they did, no matter what resources or help was given, they didn’t use it right. There are people who do it to themselves. They dig their own deep holes. Honestly, no matter what you do or say, they don’t want to be unburied. You can only help people who want to be helped. Be aware and cognizant of this so you’re not gullible and taken advantage of. But if you’re called to a situation to serve others, even if they don’t deserve it, do it anyways. Don’t worry about where their heart is. If God wants you to do it, then keep your heart in the right place.
5. BE PROACTIVE ABOUT IT
Ask not what your friends can do for you, but what you can do for your friends. Don’t wait to be reached out to, instead do the reaching out. Pray not for what God can do for you, but what you can do for Him.
6. YOU WILL PROSPER
A funny thing happens when you give, you will receive. Now that’s not why you do it. That’s just a fringe benefit, a perk, a bonus for doing it. You should always give without any intention of receiving anything in return. But don’t be surprised when you’re blessed for it.
“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage (Matthew 20:26-28, The Message).
Even Jesus, King of Kings, God in the flesh, the CEO, the head coach, the grand master, didn’t come on this earth to be served, but to serve. Whether you want to or not, you should do the same.
So as I’m sitting there in that undisclosed place recently, I tell myself to stop and think. These goombas (an Italian word I think I made up) don’t get it right now, but I have a lot of people in my life who do. Focus on them and keep your ship sailing and pray that God hits these guys with their moment soon.
As always, don’t’ take any of my word for it. Try living a life that’s not about you today. And it may just be an absolute game-changer for you and everyone in your life.
THE GIRL FROM THE PROJECTS
Chapter 1 from Conversations with Gio
Running through a cemetery, I stop to look at the tombstones.
Standing on top of those that once lived like me, grips me. I imagine they had the same struggles, same concerns, same dreams; just in a different time, to a different degree, and in a different setting.
I look at the years. 1875. 1902. A gentleman who lived 85 years. A little one who lived not so many. Some lived long. Some lived short. But all separated by the same thing.
How did they use it? Did they love? Were they loved? Did they dream? Did they accomplish them? How did they live their dash?
How am I living mine?
I think back to a story I thank God for. For if he had not put that little girl in my life ten years ago, I would not be living the life that I am today.
I never did learn her name. She was five, maybe six years old with brown hair and chestnut eyes. I met her in the projects of Youngstown on summer break from college. I landed this construction job from a buddy and was simply grateful for the work and a break from the pressure of college. I was making some huge mistakes in my life. I was piling up debt that I had no intention of paying back. I was skipping class to pound beer and grip my controller in endless battles of video game marathons. I was failing school and more importantly failing at life.
I was broke, confused and on a road to nowhere. I was lost.
And in my wandering God placed the little girl with no name right smack dab in my path. Her mom’s name was Billy Jean. Billy Jean was a crack-addict, something she admitted to me in a love letter asking me out on a date.
This little girl never said a word. She was quiet and reserved and barely changed her facial expression from the still face she usually wore. Billy Jean decided to prove it to me one day when she said, “Watch, she won’t even cry when I smack her face.”
Smack. No tears. Not even a frown.
She didn’t cry alright. She was emotionally numb. I stared frustrated and irritated, wishing Billie Jean was a male so I could smack her back. For days I tried to imagine what this little child’s numbness felt like.
Eventually, I did have a breakthrough moment with her.
One day, I was digging up a piece of sidewalk in front of her unit. She was a few feet away watching, as she commonly did. As I pulled the slab of cement from the dirt I found a yellow, toy figurine buried beneath it. I waved her over as I cleaned it off. I knelt down, reached out and said, “Here you go, looks like we found some treasure.” She cautiously reached out to receive the gift. She then looked up with her chestnut-colored eyes looking into mine, and a huge smile took over her face.
I never saw her smile before and I would never see it again.
But for her to pull a smile out of her dark, hurtful world, helped me realize that there is hope. The sooner we turn our “me-centered” world into a “God-centered” one, the sooner that hope for her, and every other child that lives in this world, becomes a reality.
God used that little girl, and all the other children that I have worked with over the years for that matter — to teach me the most important lesson in my life…..
LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME.
That’s not easy to grasp. But it’s the most profound, life-changing truth I have ever learned. And the reason why I can run out of that cemetery living my dash to the fullest today.
In one of my favorite books called, One Month To Live, Chris Shook writes, “You get to choose how to spend that little dash of time between the two dates of your earthly existence. What are you spending yours on? Are you living the dash, knowing fully who you are and why you’re here? Or dashing to live, hurriedly spending precious time chasing things that really don’t matter to you?”
Life is not about you. There are not many things you control in life; but you do get to control how you use your dash. Control yours, not just for your sake, but for all those lives still above ground.
I love you, son. I believe in you. Now choose how to live your dash today. It’s an absolute game-changer.