You stand at the edge of the greatest period of opportunity in the history of humanity. Through advances in science, technology, education and faith, you will undoubtedly have the opportunity to influence more people for more good in more parts of the world than ever before. We now live in an era where we could legitimately see the end of things like famine, disease, poverty, homelessness and unfair trade. I love the lines of a powerful U2 song that say “Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.” These are both prophetic and motivational words. They paint a beautiful picture of our world and what it could be and they also ignite us to want to join, to participate in what God is doing to re-create a better humanity. Don’t miss this opportunity. Don’t sit back and expect change to come without your help. See the future. Find a place. Do your part.
But, I don’t want you to misunderstand what I am suggesting. You see I think the greatest tragedy of our lifetime will not be that all people fail to accomplish great things, but rather that some people will fail to accomplish anything. One of the exciting things about living in a time of great advancement and change is the interconnectedness that exists beyond walls and beyond borders. We are rapidly becoming, or may have rapidly become, what is known as a “global community.” And there’s something unique about a global community that people of faith have known for a long time, but others are now beginning to recognize. In a true global community, everybody has a part, a role to play. And everybody’s unique role has a profound impact on the rest of the community.
Let me illustrate this. Today some scientists believe that the melting of ice at the South Pole is having dramatic effects on the tides and the sea level thousands of miles away in Miami beach. A few years ago some film makers took this idea of significant impact from environmental science and applied it to doing good to others. They called it “Pay it forward.” In this film they proposed that one person doing good for one other person would ultimately have enormous impact on a much larger group, maybe even the whole world. Well, as interconnected as we are in this global community, there is no better time for that to truly happen than now. Even the small things you do for others will have a lasting impact on the rest of the world. Although we can have great hope that some day in the future one of you will discover the cure for cancer or aids, or that one of you will become president of the United States and sign the greatest peace treaty of all time….it is unlikely. However, we can know with great probability that if each of you will make every effort to do as much good to as many people as you can…the world will be a better place.
There’s a neat story of a young man who was walking on the beach, and as he walked he was stopping to pick up starfish and throw them back into the ocean before they died. Another older man had noticed the walking and the throwing and began to watch with great interest. As he watched he noticed that the young man was able to throw about ten starfish back into the ocean in about ten minutes, but he also noticed that this particular beach was covered with thousands, possibly millions of starfish. After watching a little longer he became disturbed and rushed down to the young man on the beach and exclaimed, “What do you think you are doing? There are thousands upon thousands of starfish on this beach and you are only one man working very slowly. There is no way you could possibly make a difference for all of these starfish.” The young man slowly bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it as far out into the sea as he could. Then he turned the much-wiser man and said, “You are probably right, but I just made a difference for that one.”
I want to leave you with one more thought as you prepare to graduate and as you consider choosing the path of doing good. Author Nelson Henderson wrote, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” As a follower of Christ I must admit to you that choosing to do good to others may not necessarily be to your best advantage. Those who seek the interests of others before themselves are not generally rewarded with money, fame, prestige and power. Some times they are even repayed with criticism, sacrifice and in the most extreme cases death. I am reminded of an article I read a few years ago about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The article was really more of an interview in which the reporter was trying to make some sense of this strange woman who had giving up friends, family and just about all worldly possessions to bath and tend to the poorest and sickest people of the world.He asked her, “What is it that keeps you doing this day after day, year after year without any reward or recognition?” She replied “It is not me who chooses to do this work; I am only a pencil in the hand of God. The pencil doesn’t direct or create or receive the recognition; the pencil only allows itself to be used in the hand of the creator.”
The front pages may not have praised the accomplishments of this pencil named Mother Teresa, but humanity was definitely made better because of her.
My hope and my prayer for you is that you to would choose to be a pencil in the hand of God and allow Him to use you to change the world.
Back to your question. Amara was in the accident because she traded seats with a friend during the last rest stop. For some reason, she and her two friends weren’t able to ride in the same vehicle together. Amara was assigned to ride in the car her mom was driving — not the average 8th-grader’s dream youth group road-trip, but she endured. The other two girls were together. As an act of friendship, one of them (Sage Nielson) gave up her place so that Amara could be with the other girl for a while: Beth Johnston. Then the accident happened. The seat-swap created some confusion back in Abilene about just who was involved in the accident but it also stirred deep emotions between Sage and Amara.
When Amara was finally brought to the hospital, she looked awful and was in a lot of pain. But she had only two things on her mind and she kept talking about them, for as long as she was conscious: 1) the people who had helped her and prayed with her on the roadside; and 2) she asked how everybody involved was doing — including Sage. Once Amara and Sage finally got to see one another, late the next day, the scene was incredible. “I am so sorry that you took my place,” Sage said. “It should have been me!” At the same time, Amara was blurting out, “I am so glad that we traded places, so you didn’t have to go through this!” They were both weeping. Come to think of it, some other people in the room may have been crying too. Each was ready to give herself up for the other and in the middle of the horrific pain of that time of broken bodies and death they knew very well what they were saying. The image of Christ was making an appearance, right there among the cookie bouquets and blood transfusion.