Glenn Cunningham was an extraordinary athlete. He set several world records, competed in two Olympic games, received numerous medals and was even voted most popular Olympian by fellow athletes of the 1936 games.
However, when I met this man weeks before his death, he didn’t change my life by the way he ran, but through the way he lived. Let me explain.
On a snowy morning, Glenn and his brother Floyd were trying to warm the single-room schoolhouse for their teacher and classmates. The brothers didn’t know the can of kerosene had been switched the night before with a can of gasoline.
When Floyd lit the match, the schoolhouse was engulfed in flames. Floyd did not survive. Glenn was burned so badly the doctors wanted to amputate his legs. His mother begged them not to; instead she personally changed his bandages daily.
My friends, Glenn’s learning to walk again was a gift. Becoming an Olympic runner was truly a feat. But, what makes his life remarkable is what he did off the track.
Glenn and his wife Ruth raised their 10 children on their ranch in Kansas. The love with which they treated their children was so powerful: it attracted kids with no homes, no chance and no one who cared for them. Each who came was treated as their own; allowed to stay, do chores, follow rules and be treated with love and respect.
Over the decades, Ruth and Glenn opened their home to over 9,000 children.
I met Glenn a year after I was burned as a boy. He shared his passion for life, service and faith. He encouraged me to believe that someday I too would walk. The last words he spoke to me were, “John, you can do anything. Never give up!”
Glenn Cunningham made a nice living. He got paid for his work, received awards and heard the roar of the crowd at his track meets.
Glenn Cunningham made an incredible life, however, not by what he got, but by what he gave.
My friends, the work you do quietly for others may not make headlines, but it will inspire others and give your life significance.
Put on your running shoes, tie them tight and know that the best is yet to come.
Who was an example of “living good” in your life? Share in the comments.