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Where’s the Fire? In this Man’s Heart

Where’s the Fire? In this Man’s Heart

fire-175966_640Have you ever thought about what you would do if you passed a house that was ablaze in fire? Not sure? What if you saw some small children outside who in fear ran back inside to what they thought was the only safe place they knew? You would probably chase after them, right? But would you have the courage to go back in four times? As related by Liz Sawyer in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (7-22-15), Donnell Gibson did just that. His heroic efforts saved the lives of ten people that morning before authorities arrived.

Afterwards, Gibson, a 29-year-old African American father of four was presented a Meritorious Service Award by the St. Paul (MN) Fire Department, the highest award given by them. Reflecting back on that hot and windy July day, Gibson said it felt like his clothes were melting off as he braved heat and smoke. In the process, he checked out several levels of the home, finding some of the family still asleep. The fire chief said that without Gibson’s effort, surely several, if not all would have died.

That Gibson would do such a courageous act did not come as any surprise to those who knew him. His friends said that this is not the only day he has saved lives in one way or another. He has demonstrated a heart for others in all his endeavors, holding multiple jobs as a prevention specialist at a school, emergency medical technician, and at a local recreation center. He has also taken the initial steps to set up a non-profit to help steer inner city youth in the right direction.

A day after the fire that leveled the house to the ground, Gibson returned to the scene with his young son. Using it as a teaching moment, he showed him what a man is supposed to do—he protects and he is brave. He also has shown the rest of us something else on a broader level—one more example of Love Lived Large. Thank you Donnell Gibson.

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When Cancer Defines the Rest of Your Life

When Cancer Defines the Rest of Your Life

Hospital greetingIf I were to get the painful news of a cancer diagnosis, I would no doubt be thinking of finishing up that bucket list. How could I best spend what time God had granted me with family and friends while ticking off those items on the list? Of course, cancer is not necessarily a death sentence these days, but how could one’s mind not go to the finality of it all—at least here on this earth.

Jon McAlpine ‘s mind went so far as to consider taking his own life early. As reported by Steve Hartman with CBS’s On the Road (April 4, 2014), the sixty-year-old former fireman from Omaha contemplated ending it all with a shotgun suicide in a motel room. Why postpone the inevitable? Diagnosed with a rare intestinal cancer, Jon fortunately got some loving advice from his doctor, who convinced him otherwise. Even a terminal cancer diagnosis didn’t have to mean there was no hope for a future.

So would Jon work on checking off that bucket list after all? To the contrary, he decided he would spend his time cheering up others—people with a diagnosis similar to his. Jon became a greeter at the Methodist Hospital Estabrook Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska. What could be more welcoming to a cancer patient than a greeting with a big hug from a fellow patient undergoing the same challenges and worries? I cannot imagine how a few words exchanged about their mutual struggles could be more meaningful and heartfelt. As other patients report, his welcome is always warm and uplifting. Jon does this five days a week, even on those days involving his own chemotherapy.

So now Jon doesn’t look at himself as a cancer victim anymore. He has found a purpose: helping others. He wants to be an inspiration for them—so they can hopefully live like him. Indeed, Jon has chosen to Live Love Large his remaining days.

“Love Never Fails”

(1 Corinthians 13:8)

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Troubled Teen–Twice a Failure, but Not Forsaken

Troubled Teen–Twice a Failure, but Not Forsaken

Troubled teen boyConnie, a 50-year-old social worker in Tampa, FL, tried twice to get him placed into a new home. But Taylor had anger issues, and over a course of 10 years, the adoptive parents gave him back. Two times a failure. The expectation appeared to get ingrained in Taylor’s head that he was indeed not lovable.

As reported by Steve Hartman (On the Road, CBS, 12/27/13), Connie felt so bad about Taylor’s situation, she developed pain in her own body. Many nights brought her nothing but sleeplessness. She finally concluded she had no other choice but to give the troubled teen up as a client. But then it dawned on her. Yes, she would have to give him up as a client. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t take him on as a son. Connie ended up adopting Taylor. He joined the divorcee’s two biological daughters in their family unit.

At first, things did not go well–not well at all. The expectation of failure was so ingrained in Taylor’s head, he threatened to run away. Only after Connie re-assured him that she would not be like the others—she would not send him packing—did the situation improve.

Someone had to convince Taylor he was unconditionally loved. What a challenge. My hat goes off to the two families that tried unsuccessfully to nurture this troubled teen—more than most of us would dare. But then Connie came along. What an example of Love Lived Large! Like our Father God, she loved Taylor unconditionally. God never sends anyone away. No matter how many times we have failed, we are always welcome in his arms.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

(1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)

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Stepping into the Hunger Breach

Stepping into the Hunger Breach

supermarket-shelf-1094817_640When the supply of food didn’t meet the need, students at Hill-Murray High School in St. Paul, MN, knew they had more than a simple math problem to solve. Yes, as tutors in a ten-year-old program, they were accustomed to helping fourth graders at Webster School with their math, among other subjects. But now they realized that something else just didn’t quite add up. There was a more important gap to fill. At a school where 80% qualified for free or reduced cost lunches, too many children were going home hungry—something a bit foreign to these private school students.

Whereas in the past a local church had helped, the supply from that source was now depleted. The stack of donated food items in the teachers’ lounge at Webster had been shrinking. The Hill-Murray students realized the need and stepped into the breach. They didn’t depend on teachers leading the way. As one teacher summed up, “They owned it.” More than just the tutors participated. Members of numerous sports teams at Hill-Murray got involved, holding food drives at their games. The students knew that service to others was important. Now they could be more than tutors. It wasn’t long before vans filled with food donations made trips to the school in need. And the fourth graders at Webster now had a reason beyond math problems to bond with their benefactors.

The bonding continued with other activities such as a haunted house at Halloween, a coat drive, and a collection of gifts at Christmas to allow students to provide inexpensive gifts for their families. Smiles now adorned the faces of more than just a few people, young and old. To the students at Hill-Murray High School, thanks for your many efforts to Live Love Large!

(Retold from an article by James Walsh in the April 4, 2015 Minneapolis StarTribune.)

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