Be a Man for Others

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not certain. Today is all you have. Will today be about you or about others?

Ford Madox Brown, “Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet,” 1852-1856

“Be a man for others, son.” A young dad gets down on one knee, eye to eye with his son, and touches his crossed arms. The son looks up. “Be a man for others.” The 5-year-old agrees to help his little sister drag her scooter back up a steep hill that was much easier to go down than to go back up.

Years have passed, but that interaction comes to mind often as we parent our brood of five. “Be a man for others.” My husband, Ryan, often says that when your feet hit the floor each morning you have to choose if today is going to be about you or about others. It’s a choice we all make every day. Sometimes we start strong and by lunchtime we’re ready to call it quits.

Be a man for others. Obviously this refers to men and women, boys and girls, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and coworkers. Be a friend for others. Be a dad for others. Be a brother for others. Be a sister for others.

What exactly does that mean?

In the wee hours of last night, I finished a book by Michael O’Brien called The Lighthouse. It was the perfect book to read in front of the fireplace after the kids have gone to bed. Ryan read it first and insisted I read it. One of the most intimate things a couple can do together is read a book together. You share that world. Do you have conversations about the different characters, what you would’ve done, how it affected you when you read it? (I highly recommend reading a good book together!)

Ethan McQuarry, the central figure in The Lighthouse, is a solitary figure who lives on a solitary island. He is the lighthouse keeper and much has been taken from him in life. When a local Catholic church burns down, he secretly donates a new handmade boat to hang in the church. It is a custom in port-town churches to hang a small ship from the ceiling to remind us to pray for those at sea and to remember that the world is our ship, not our home.

As Ethan sits in the new church and sees his handiwork hanging from the ceiling he reflects:

“He felt very good about that, and was thankful that no one would ever know who had made it. It was enough to have done a thing that shifted the imbalance in the world. Some people stole, but others gave. Too many takers, and the boat capsizes; enough givers, and she rights herself. It was a matter of choice what kind of person you would be.”

Be a man for others. Here it was again! What if parents focused on teaching their children to be givers and not takers? To be a man for others? To hit the floor each day focusing on how God is calling you to serve today?

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not certain. Today is all we have. Rather than frittering away hours scrolling the web, watching the news and fretting over it, perhaps we should make better use of our short life. What if we raised up a generation that understands how to be a man for others? To give and not to take.

Perhaps I can start with myself and then my family. Then serve my school, my church (do Witness to Love!), my community, my town... What if I can help to shift the balance, starting with my home? What if our children could do this with their classmates? Be givers and not takers. Every day when we drop our kids off at school we ask them to find at least one way to be extraordinarily kind during the school day. You have to start somewhere!

“Be a man for others.” In the end, that 5-year-old boy helped his sister drag her scooter up the hill. He then had to come back down the hill and get his own bike. His dad helped him and as a team they carried his bike up the hill. The son had the opportunity to serve and to be served. There is a blessing in both.

And if the world had more givers and less takers that would be a very good thing.

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