“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~Helen Keller
It’s funny, sometimes, to realize that the true faces of courage and brilliance are found in the simplest most unexpected of places. And yet, that’s where they are truly and mostly found and therefore begs our attention to find more of them. By realizing that the unexpected joys of this earth can be found in the most simple and mundane of places, we will certainly find many more of them.
Take for instance an experience I had years ago, acting as one of several chaperones for a wonderful group of sixth graders who traveled to one of those theme parks scattered all over the country. You could say that I was “voluntold” to accompany this group of youngsters who were about to enter Middle School, all of them so sure about what was going to happen, and none of them truly aware of how their lives were about to change dramatically.
It was about a three-hour travel time from school to our destination that was actually quite enjoyable. Since we left very early in the morning, I think that for the first two hours of this last elementary school spree, the bus driver and I were the only people awake during that time. I loved the scenery that slowly glowed with the first little moments of dawn. In many ways it was like a little retreat that helped me place so many situations in the right perspective. I have tried to repeat these little enlightening moments ever since.
Every year, each “graduating” class adopted some theme or saying. It was hoped that this poignant thought would help weave the entire year together and hopefully make memories for years to come. I am happy to report, for our purposes here, that even after twenty years in some circumstances, we definitely achieved our goal. This class chose an interesting phrase that had surfaced among so many choices: “Always aspire to inspire before you expire!”
To this day, I find myself repeating that phrase and those who know me and know that I am set to say it again, beat me to the punch. It is, as the British say, the “bees’ knees.” (Means really cool.)
This particular school trip was going to be memorable. This group was both a joy and a drain to be around. While their laughter was infectious, the energy it took to keep up would have emptied the energy out of the Energizer rabbit. After about three hours, since I was the oldest of all the chaperones, they gave me reprieve and let me wander on my own, promising to meet up with the group at the end of the time allotted, and to board the bus to return home. However, before leaving I was to meet Jared, whose face and uniform and behavior, I pray I will never forget. I knew his name was Jared because of his big-name tag.
This particular theme park had the practice of hiring disabled individuals to do everything from greeting park goers, to taking tickets, and watering plants and shrubs. Jared must have been around sixteen years old and was confined to a highly modernized and motorized wheelchair where all the navigation was combined and centralized into one little “joystick” or flight stick that allowed him to maneuver backward, forward, side-to-side. He sure did master this feat of complete marvel to my eyes.
Jared was stationed in the food court and all his job consisted of was to pick up left behind food trays, dip them in a bucket attached to his wheelchair, dry them off with the one hand that he use of, and place them neatly in another side of his vehicle where, I imagined, someone would collect and get ready for re-use. With every approach to each table, my admiration for him and the tears in my eyes grew. He was so focused and untiring, as he attempted to manage a smile from his contorted expression, which would melt a glacier.
But as life presents at times, this remarkable scene was rudely interrupted by some brat-infested pre-teen with less manners than a hungry snake and less charm to boot. He thought it would be funny to make fun of Jared while accompanying him from table to table and making his only noble chore as difficult as he could. At one point, as Jared was reaching for a tray to clean, this inhuman prankster kept pushing it out of his reach until it fell to the ground. Jared never returned any hatred or equally mean behavior or look, but simply tried to lean down from his chair to pick up the item for cleaning. And just when you thought it could not get any worse, this spoiled child stepped on it — making it impossible for Jared to retrieve. It was then that I could not help myself and leapt up and as directly and sternly as I could, dug down to enlist my Darth Vader voice to somewhat shout, “Get off the tray!” The little bully ran off and I picked up the tray and helped Jared wash it and place it with the others.
“I’m sorry, Son. I hope that guy didn’t ruin your day.” As I started to make my way for the entrance of the park and meet my hopefully tired and exhausted group of sixth graders, I looked back and could hear him slowly mouth, with not a small amount of effort, “Thaaa…nk…you.” I started to weep. Not because of pity, but because of complete admiration and amazement for this soul that embodied greatness to me on a hot summer afternoon. As soon as I could compose myself, I looked at him with the hope that I would never forget him, and said, “You inspire me.” And with that, Jared went back to work and his life, and I returned to mine, all the better for this encounter.
I believe all of us have seeds of greatness within us. Our ability to think, reason, create, discover, and much, much more, proves that each one of us is special and unique. Rest assured that none of us are a mistake! We all face difficult challenges from time to time, but one thing is true; every life has great worth and incredible value. Though our time here on this planet is relatively brief, each of us should aspire to do what we can to inspire and help others in the limited amount of time we are given. Whether we realize it or not, our lives touch many other lives. For as long as we live, we should do everything in our power to inspire, help, and encourage others as we journey together.
Whoever you are and wherever you are reading this wonderful memory of mine from, I pray that you will collect many like it. There are miracles and opportunities of greatness everywhere. Expect to find them and they will be there. Think about all the people who never attempt great things because they are afraid that they might fail. We simply cannot be counted among them. My friends, seek greatness. Aspire to inspire before you expire, to new heights that you have never attempted. When you do, you will inspire other people and yourself as well. It happened to me at a theme park more than twenty years ago, and my prayer is that Jared is still inspiring you.
Share your thoughts (19 thoughts)
“We all carry the seeds of greatness within us, but we need an image as a point of focus in order that they may sprout.” ~Epicletus
19 thoughts on “Aspire to Inspire”
This is an amazing story! In our world today, it’s crucial that we look and hope for inspiration around us. So many have been programmed to see the negative before finding the positive in people or situations. But every so often, a surprise comes up and you can tell that God is telling us that greatness and kindness still exist. We have one life to live. We all need to be reminded that we need to spread this greatness and kindness instead of tearing people down or thriving on others misfortunes or drama.
I love the part of this story where you stood up for this young man. We should all be that person that will not allow hate to be pushed on another human being. I personally walk through the whispers of gossip about me on a weekly basis and it’s very hurtful and just downright mean. But it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way.
Build each other up!! See the best in situations for yourself and more importantly, others. That’s what will bring love and kindness back to this great world we live in❤️
Oh my, what a beautiful experience and such a powerful young man.
I’m my career I’ve worked with hundreds of people with severe physical and intellectual disabilities. When I find myself struggling with fatigue or with illness I simply remember many of those courageous individuals who endured chronic and severe physical pain and emotional distress daily. I remember them being scheduled for dental appointments. Many of them were unable to speak. They may not have always understood exactly what was happening to them. They did have their teeth cleaned though or perhaps another dental procedure. I would see many of them afterwards and be greeted with a smile. I always think of those faces when I visit the dentist. So often I’ve been inspired by the people I’ve had the privilege to serve over the years and do my best not to complain about any discomfort when I visit the dentist.
Another beautiful and inspiring story for us all! As I read and thought about Jared; his inability to walk and talk like others his age yet working among the community with such dedication, this is a special young man living the life Christ wants us all to live! You met one of God’s Angels!! A miracle walking this earth! He inspired you knowing you would inspire all of us! Thank you for having the aspiration to inspire us all with your wonderful articles. God bless you always!!
Thank you once again, Julie, for gracing these pages with your insights. They remind me of a favorite quote:
“Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.”
― Roy T. Bennett
What an incredibly amazing story! Our lives do touch others and witnessed this myself this weekend as I served on a Retreat. This was perfect reading to reflect on. ❤️
I am so grateful to God that others have benefitted with that special time away from the world which we know as a retreat. When we look upon the cross of Christ, we are all reminded what wondrous love is this that the Savior of the Universe should suffer and die for me. Alleluia!
Awesome for sure I will aspire to inspire before I expire. Amazingly I am visiting my sister in Michigan, who has a son who is bed written due to MS. It has made me see the sacrifices she lovingly does being attentive to the needs of her son,
who has to depend on her to feed , bath, dress and give him his medication May God filled them with all the graces needed to persep.
Absolutely, Georgia. The greatest love I have ever witnessed is for those in family who depend on others for the most simple of actions and choices. They bring out the best in us and all they do is smile and show us the face of God.
A great reminder to us all, what we should be doing each day! Every day we are given a day on this Earth, we are given a chance to inspire; and inspire we shall do! Keep them coming! Another great article!
Yes, we are given each day to make the most of every opportunity, every trial, every setback, every moment that needs our full attention. Jared showed that no matter what is challenging us, what is greater is what is within us, especially our Faith which bring light to the darkness of this world.
Great read! I needed the reminder to try my best to live my life like Jared.
That is exactly the point! That young man was giving everything he had to do what he could to have purpose in this world and feel good about his contribution to the world. Jared reminded me that I can/should never complain abot anything. I decided to move forward like Jared with everything I have in me.
Wow. When I think your stories can’t get any better, you kick it up a few notches. This is so inspiring. I’ve always felt that you tell a story much better than I would have perceived it had I witnessed it myself. May God continue to bless and inspire you so you can keep blessing and inspiring others.
Thank you for that wonderful compliment, Rosa and for returning to these pages with your comments. From time to time, I recalled Jared and that remarkable afternoon at the theme park. I started wondering where that young man would be today and realizing that I could never really know, I just said a prayer for him and thank God for the inspiration that He allowed for me see His face.
What a wonderful story. One that I will pass in to my fifth grade classes in the hope that it will inspire at least one of them. I think of my role as a teacher to so many and I pray that I can continue to aspire to inspire. Thank you for your gift of these wonderful stories. Keep them coming.
Thank you for passing on this inspirational moment that can be shared with as many who will listen. Teachers always are challenged to inspire those who at times seem to resist the very lessons that must be learned before adulthood. Thank you so much for responding. God bless you always in the classroom.
Wowzer! Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience. Jared is a Powerfull Public Speaker whose humility speaks volumes.
Thank you so much, Deacon. I loved your insight in terms of calling Jared a Public Speaker because indeed every time we retell this story, that young man comes alive and inspires us. I must admit, that while I was writing this piece and reflecting and remembering that very warm afternoon, I was inspired all over again. Thanks for responding.