I felt my watch vibrate and glanced down at the words on the screen. My attention focused as I scrolled through the details of the message and then fumbled through my nearby bag, searching for a tissue to dry my eyes. I couldn’t believe the news:
My dear friend Dan had passed away.
Brother Dan, as he was known, was 92 years old — in his case, 92 years young; he could have passed for more than a decade younger. Dan always wore a rascally smile, like he was up to no good (in the best possible way). Call it cliché, but the man’s eyes twinkled.
Brother Dan was tall and strong, a former high school coach of multiple sports, the kind of man you want mentoring your child. His family displayed photos of him coaching basketball, softball, track, and football teams at the visitation the day before his funeral. I’m curious how many lives he influenced, the generations of students who looked up to him and became better athletes (and better humans) because of his guidance. For decades’ worth of Sundays, he served as sideline coach, long-distance spectator, and vocal cheerleader for my family through conversations in the church fellowship hall.
When our oldest son consistently finished second to the same opponent in the two-mile at his high school track meets, Brother Dan mapped out a strategy that enabled him to win his final race. He encouraged people to do their best by playing to their strengths. Brother Dan didn’t change our son physically, but he changed his mindset. Later our son would apply that lesson to the way he played baseball too.
Most of my children have run cross country and track and Brother Dan always asked about their races and followed their seasons. For years, he inquired on a regular basis if I was writing a Western novel for him (always with the characteristic twinkle in his eye); he obviously loved them. It became an ongoing joke. I hated to tell him no, but I don’t think he ever expected my answer to be yes. When he learned I was speaking at a women’s event last month, he asked about my preparations beforehand and then followed up to see how it went after the fact.
As one of my daughters remarked on the way to Brother Dan’s funeral, “He was always so invested in us.”
Brother Dan was an exceptional man, not because of his talent or skills — although he had them — but because he cared for people so deeply. He invested himself in others, encouraged them, and helped them be the best they could be. He was a faithful man of God and used the gifts God gave him to serve others.
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)
We all have intrinsic, divine worth and the power to impact the unique subset of humanity that’s been put in our path. Each life bears a unique imprint. No one will encounter the same people in the same places as you will. When we live generously, selflessly helping those around us, we bless and are blessed in return.
We all need coaches and cheerleaders in our lives. People who care about us. People who encourage us. People who bring out our best. People who make us feel seen, the way Brother Dan did. Life is about more than what we gain: it’s in what we give, who we serve, and where (and in whom) we invest our time.
Service to self can leave us empty, but serving others will both fill us and fulfill us. Within the sphere of each of our simple, singular lives, we can make the world a better place.
This is so true for me. No matter how tired or grumpy I feel or how long my to do list is, I feel so much better when the focus is off me and on others.
Dawn Camp says
It’s amazing, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment, Madeline.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Dawn. I say this is beautiful of Dan. The way he invest in people loved. You all that and other good things to remember about Dan. I knew lady alot older than me that is in Glory with God. Call Maud. She invest in me. Maud told me you have lost of many talents God have given you. One is thinking of other before yourself. Many have said Dawn your to kind for your own good. I go the extra mile to help people. Show them the love of God in what I do for them and pray for them. I said to my Husband you never take that kindness out of me. I can to kind for my own good. When no need to be. I say I doing on to God and for the love of people. That why I do all I do for my elderly Dad. I do more than my sister’s. I people say let them do their part to. But I just do it. As I know they either not do it or if they did they not do it that we’ll for our Dad. So I just go ahead and do it sat nothing. Just say to myself I doing for the Love of God and my Dad. Even if tired. It makes me feel better that I done it. As I say to myself my Dad needs the help. I able to do as nothing wrong with. Not like other who like to help people and can’t. But I can see why people say to you do far to much. Let your sisters do a bit more. I know they either will or will not think to do it or just not do. I feel better just having done it. With other people too. I don’t care if I don’t get a reward in Heaven one day for doing. I just thankful on to God I do it to help people out that need the help. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Dawn Camp says
Dawn, it’s always good to try to help people! Blessings to you!
Becky L says
Dawn, I enjoyed reading this article. It made me think of kind people who have helped and encouraged me in life. I remember a couple at a church we went to when I moved back to Oregon with my husband and two young children. (I was single when I Ieft to go into the US Air Force 1976.) Don and Faith invited us to their house for lunch after church. We became close friends thru the years. Makes my eyes tear up just thinking they are gone on earth. Way too much to ✍️ write but I know they helped us including our children when they were young. My children enjoyed being in the Christmas children’s choir/play. I do my best to help people I know and others who are coworkers and customers at Panera Cafe where I work at now. Some people who know me from the hardware store I worked at for 15 years miss me. Both my husband and I have been teaching children for years. It started out when we were engaged when we were in England with the Air Force. We went to a Chapel on the RAF Woodbridge base. We were asked to help the high school youth group so we did. That’s where we wedding ceremony was at 45 years ago. Good memories of that and years ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, essential oils friend and sister in Christ Jesus ❤️
Dawn Camp says
Becky, I’m glad to have brought these sweet memories to mind. Blessings!
Beth Williams says
Serving others takes the focus off self. You see others in their best & worst situations. Each Friday no matter how tired from week’s work I volunteer about 3 or so hours at Loaves & Fishes Food bank. I do anything that needs done-putting meals together, prepping next weeks meals, handing out meals, dishes, etc. The people you give food to are grateful for what you give them. One Friday we had 10 commitments to Christ.
I work in ICU as a clerical. Each day I go into 28 rooms & stock supplies. Families & I talk some & I pray for each one of them-maybe not by name. I have even been a cheerleader for some patients when they get to sit in chair or walk the halls. Try to be Christ’s light & love in a gloomy place. Both these make me count my many blessings.
Dawn Camp says
Beth, these are wonderful things you are able to do! Blessings to you!