A reminder that giving is truly better than receiving.
“The wise do not lay up their own treasures. The more they give to others, the more they have for themselves.” Lao Tzu
Four times a year I have the honor of speaking with wounded warriors through a partnership with FOCUS Marines Foundation. These women and men served their country, fought overseas, and returned home, but many of the battles continue to rage. Many struggle with PTSD, anger management, self-worth and suicidal ideation. Self-medicating these wounds frequently leads to other addictions.
It’s a tough group. It’s also one of the greatest group of men and women I get to speak with during the entire year.
A few years ago, while sharing the story of Jack Buck, his visits to my hospital room, John O’Leary Day at the Ballpark, and the 60 baseballs he sent my way to teach me how to write again, a deep voice from a Marine to my left barked out loudly, “I got a question: Where are your balls?!!”
These sessions are hours long and are intended to be highly interactive, but this was the first time I’d heard him speak. In fact, it was the first time he’d spoken since arriving a few days earlier. It may have just been a playful heckle, but it was a start.
I told him the baseballs were all at my house and then added, “Brother, if you uncross your arms and share from your heart before the night’s over, I’ll personally come back this week and hand deliver one to you.”
As the night continued, stories were shared, tears were shed, notes were taken.
And at the very end of the evening, these guys had an opportunity to craft and share their personal commitment, something they were going to do not only for the remainder of the week, but for the rest of their lives.
After several tremendous shares, a hand elevated on my left. The gentleman from earlier stood and shared a commitment to not just endure life anymore, but to begin truly living it again. I walked over to him, gave him a hug, looked him in the eyes and told him I’d see him later that week.
Three days later I headed back to the retreat center driving down a winding, gravel road. The sun rose over the rustic conference center, reflecting off the lake and lit up the American flag flying over it.
The Commanding Officer met me at the car, welcomed me back, walked me in and quickly got the attention of the other Veterans gathered.
After briefly thanking them for a few minutes of their attention that morning, I invited the Marine who earlier this week chose to uncross his arms and begin truly living life again to join me on stage.
I then handed him a baseball personalized to me in 1987 by one of my favorite players. That ball helped re-teach me to write, and to re-engage in society. It was incredibly meaningful… and hard to give away.
The Marine took the ball, gave me a massive hug and with tears in his eyes held the baseball high for everyone to see.
He then walked back to his table, retrieved something, came back to the stage and took the microphone. The man who wouldn’t speak days ago shared “I wasn’t sure if you’d be back, but wanted to have something to give you if you did.” With that, he handed me a baseball signed by all 60 Marines present.
Now I was the one with tears in my eyes.
This gentleman spoke one more time, saying, “John, although I appreciate this baseball you gave me, I can’t take it.” There was a long pause as he collected his emotions and thoughts, then he added, “This baseball needs to stay here, at FOCUS, so every other Marine that comes here is reminded that we aren’t alone, that people care and that our best remains ahead.”
With that, he handed the baseball to the Commanding Officer. The room of Marines stood and roared “Hoo-Rah!”
As vibrant, life-filled, hope-fueled emotion filled the room, it was impossible not to be moved by the gift a new friend had just given not only those heroes present and the future classes to follow, but also to me.
My friends, what should we do with the gifts we’ve received? How should we use our treasures? What do we do with all the trophies we collect?
For three decades, I’ve stored a bunch of them on a shelf in my house.
Maybe it’s time to stop laying up our treasures. Maybe the truly rich are aware that the more they give to others, the more they have for themselves.
It was a lesson I learned from Jack Buck and had forgotten.
It’s a lesson a Marine taught me again.
And it’s a lesson we’d all benefit from heeding in our lives today.
This is your day. Live Inspired.
This week on the Live Inspired Podcast I visit retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch. He is a highly decorated Marine, a trainer and teacher for FOCUS, and a dear friend. Wounded in action, Nick was struck in the head by an enemy rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), resulting in numerous shrapnel wounds to the head and neck which left him legally blind and partially deaf in his right ear. Check out his amazing story of recovery, resiliency and living abundantly here.