My new friend’s superpower to spark joy in others.
“Just because I am happy and loved, doesn’t mean everyone else is. I know someone might be walking behind me who doesn’t feel happy and doesn’t feel loved. Maybe I can help them.” – Evan Ernst
While we’re thrilled our Live Inspired Podcast has been downloaded more than 5,000,000 times, it’s the stories of impact from individual listeners that most inspire our efforts. And there is something particularly special when one of the lives being impacted is a 12-year-old boy from South Dakota. Let me explain.
It doesn’t take long to figure out Evan Ernst is a remarkable kid.
His mother, Christie, had sent an email several months ago sharing that Evan insists they listen to the Live Inspired Podcast on the commute to school each Monday and Thursday morning. When the episodes end, Evan turns off the radio and discusses the main lessons with his mom. The conversation, she assured me in the email, is guided by him.
Knowing that I was headed to South Dakota for a speaking engagement and that I wanted to personally thank Evan for listening, we connected with Christie to arrange a surprise visit with our avid young listener. Christie agreed and even offered to be my taxi while in town.
Upon arriving at the Sioux Falls airport, there was a blond boy with a big smile waiting just beyond security to greet me. Evan gave me a warm hug and offered to pull my bag to his mom’s car. Once there, he offered me a bottle of water and cookies fresh from a local bakery. He wasn’t sure what my favorite cookie was, so he gave me his three favorites. (Yes, I ate all three. And yes, they were all delicious.)
Now, I’ve got four kids and spend a lot of time driving my little ones and their friends to activities. I know this stage and its hallmarks. It’s rare for kids to make eye contact, to answer questions with considerate answers or to ask thoughtful questions. But like I stated, this is not your typical 12-year-old.
During the drive, Evan asked lots of great questions.
He wanted to know if I was excited to fly without a mask. (The mandate had been lifted just days earlier.)
He asked if it was hard for me in school. (He shared that it sometimes is for him.)
And he asked if I got nervous before speeches or podcasts. (He was often nervous before speaking and was amazed to hear that I am always nervous before every speech and podcast.)
Even after pulling up to the hotel, we just kept talking. He asked questions ranging from what my kids liked to do, to if my injuries from the fire made my life harder, to if I enjoyed traveling.
The final question was if granted one superpower, which would I choose? Evan told me you can learn a lot about a person by what they choose as their power. And you can learn much more, he added, by how they choose to use it.
Power, Evan reminded me, can be used to either crush others or to help save them.
I turned the tables and asked if he ever did anything to help others.
Evan looked out the car window, contemplating his response. He then looked at me and said when he visits his grandmother in Florida, he walks the beach and stops occasionally to write the word JOY in the sand. He usually puts a few seashells around the word because he wants others to enjoy the treasures he found.
When I asked him why he did this, Evan responded, “Just because I am happy and loved, doesn’t mean everyone else is. I know someone might be walking behind me who doesn’t feel happy and doesn’t feel loved. Maybe I can help them.”
Christie sent me several pictures from our time together in Sioux Falls. She also included some pics of her son on the beach with his grandmother. You see joy in both of their faces. And I can only imagine the gift of joy shared with those who walk behind them.
My friends, there are so many examples of people using their powers for evil and personal gain.
And then we have this example of an inquisitive boy from South Dakota. The model of someone who strives to make a difference—even if he’s not around to see it. An example of a kid who not only witnesses many around him who feel discouraged, isolated, exhausted or angry, but desires to use his superpower of love to make a difference.
What Evan knows, and what we would be wise to grasp, is that the little things we do for one another, aren’t so little. The words we speak to others, matter profoundly. And the manner in which we choose to lead our lives, shapes the world in which we live.
Let’s determine to be more like Evan and act like it.
This is your day. Live Inspired.