“It’s not about you.”
– Rick Warren, from The Purpose Driven Life
I was just a little tyke when this occurred, maybe four or five, but I remember like it was yesterday. It was just before Christmas and we had gone over to visit my parents’ longtime close friends, Millie and Jack, when just as we stepped in their front door I spied two bushel baskets beneath their lavishly decorated Christmas tree overflowing with every sort of toy you can imagine. My eyes glazed over as I figured Santa Claus must have arrived early at their house – and on my behalf no doubt. Just as I was about to dive into the middle of those bountiful baskets of treasures I heard that familiar distinctive voice that only was Millie’s stop me in my tracks. “No, darling,” she lovingly chided, “those toys are for . . .” [a certain needy family in our community.] Instinctively I knew, even at that young age, who she meant and that they were indeed needy – and that I was not. It was one of the first lessons I ever learned about “it’s not about you.”
For over fifty years Millie labored long sometimes erratic hours caring for people as a nurse. (She was the delivery room nurse when I was born.) Even after retirement she had a heart for caring for others in one way or another. Jack was a prominent grocer. I’ve been told that during the darkest days of drought and depression in our small farming community he continued to sell groceries on credit knowing many could not afford to pay, his concern always being about feeding families rather than lining his pockets.
Millie and Jack’s lives were driven by purpose as Rick Warren might say, and that purpose was never about them, but always others. They were leaders in every sense of the word, unafraid to take on responsibility for the welfare and betterment of the children and citizens of the community.
Millie lived well into her nineties, and during those last years of her life I would often make the long trek out to West Texas to visit her, to “sit at her feet” listening to her stories, absorbing her wisdom. In the end what I learned is the same thing she taught me all those many Christmases ago when I was a little tyke. “It’s not about you.”