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Aunt Pat

“Many people have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller

Why am I here? What’s my purpose? How can I find true meaning and happiness in life? 

These are some of the most frequently searched questions on the internet (and on our hearts) today.

As a speaker, I meet presenters, authors and experts all over the world who teach how to best answer these questions. However, one of the finest examples I ever met wasn’t at a conference, but rather at a funeral.

This is her story. 

I learned of the passing of Sr. James Lorene Hogan. Although I’d only met her three times, at each encounter she made a dramatic impact on me. She was also the aunt of a dear friend of mine, Patrick Barry, so I went to the service to support him and his family and to honor a wonderful woman.

When I walked into the chapel last Monday my breath was taken away by the crowds of people gathered and sounds of celebration. This wasn’t the quiet hum of friends supporting each other and mourning the passing of an elderly friend. Instead this was a party; gathered to rejoice in the life of a friend who so beautifully celebrated living in each of her 90 years.

She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1942 when she was 18. Her first assignment was to teach a roomful of 22 deaf children; although she’d never before met a deaf person.

She became a world-renown expert over her next five decades of education. Her goal was to teach little ones who could not hear how to read, speak and thrive in life. A master at making the extraordinarily complicated, simple, Aunt Pat (as her family affectionately called her) explained that she “just taught them to hear through their eyes.”

‘Retiring’ in 1994, she’ began a thrift store in an impoverished neighborhood. It was a community so blighted that I’d be nervous driving through in the daylight. But Aunt Pat would frequently arrive before sunrise, work throughout the day and leave after sunset. She never questioned her safety, remaining totally focused on serving.

The characteristic all three people who eulogized Aunt Pat used to describe her was ‘fidelity.’ Fidelity is faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.

This month as the Rising Above community, we focus on choosing accountability. My friends, the challenge is to become the individual, the family and the organization that keeps your promises and lives up to the fullness of your potential. [Tweet this.]

It’s a topic worthy of reading about from experts and listening to from speakers. They’ll share world-class examples from research and history that model it.

But in the simple life of a nun who taught the deaf, served the poor, loved her family and remained faithful to her God, comes perhaps the finest example. A frail lady, full of opinions, always in action and singing so loudly that we can all hear what constitutes true happiness. Her song reminds us that success is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose bigger than ourselves.

Today, let your song be heard.

What is the purpose bigger than yourself that you are living, fighting and working for today? Please share in the comments below.

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0 replies on “Listening with Your Eyes”

Very simply — my children and my students. And by donating and volunteering hoping to make others’ lives at least a little easier.

While my children and family are number 1, right behind them are all God’s other creatures. We live on a lake and last week, I caught a neighbor boy shooting his pellet gun at a group of baby Mallard ducks (the cute fluffy ones that could fit in the palm of your hand)that had wandered onto their shoreline looking for food. After “discussion” with the boy, the parents, and the police (shooting geese/ducks off season is a federal crime and shooting babies is simply despicable!) there will be no more guns in their household. All the baby ducks were OK and my son and I even picked up an injured baby chipmunk the next day (the boy was shooting them too apparently) who is being treated in the animal hospital in our house (my wife has a federal wildlife rehab permit) and will be released back to his parents later this week. All God’s creatures are here for a reason and our family is loving and caring for as many as we can!

In my full-time job I get to work with At-Risk Adolescents in a Non-Secure Detention Facility, helping them to try to learn better ways of handling their problems. However, in my part-time job, I get to work with Men who are about to become Dads for the first time and help them navigate their new roles and responsibilities and help them to be the Active and Involved Dads that their children deserve.

What awesome work you do — thanks for sharing, Tom. And for ALL you do. Keep inspiring others and igniting your possibility. J

I just completed my college degree on Friday. It’s been six years in the making and I am thrilled to be done.

Many people asked me what was next on the horizon…I have felt for about a year now that God was leading me to do several things.

My son had a partial right frontal lobectomy in January of 2013 due to epilepsy. He is now 11 and seizure free, but our journey was a long one as he was diagnosed at 4.

I feel that God is leading me to write a book about our experience and how present He was in all of it. I feel, too, that I am to be speaking to groups and sharing our story. Then about a year ago I realized that He wanted me to start a non-profit to help families with children that are very ill. I knew this was my future but needed to finish my degree first.

Through a series of events that are only explained as a “God Thing”, my best friend and I have discovered that we are in fact to be doing this non-profit together. We are so excited but there is much to learn as neither of us has a non-profit background!

We are in the process of completing our paperwork to be a 501c3. I am thrilled to be closing this college chapter and moving on to what I consider to be my life’s work, which is helping other families.

Over the next few months while we wait for things to be finalized, we will be meeting with leaders of different non-profits (that God has literally dropped in our laps!) and firming up our starting point.

Life IS a God thing — so true. Love your story, thanks for sharing it. Congratulations on your graduation, your exciting next chapter and all the the joys that await you. Continue boldly, Jennifer! J

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.