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How a kind word from a new friend helped shift John’s perspective.

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first week of May this year was a bit exhausting for me.

The week included significant travel, five speaking presentations and three podcast recordings. There were numerous prep calls, team meetings, and complicated project deadlines that added stress. Beyond work, there were times when striving to be a phenomenal spouse, parent, son and friend was a mighty struggle. And finally, although I seldom admit this reality, the body of burn survivors breaks down easily which can lead to painful skin infections; that week I was dealing with several.

While speaking before the students from Immaculate Conception School, however, I tried to resolutely ignore any distractions, disregard personal discomfort and be fully present with these amazing students. And in doing so, a new friend reminded me both of the power of sharing our lives with others and the mighty impact we can make in their lives through encouragement. Let me explain.

I’d been invited to remind the students of Immaculate Conception that God is still God, their lives mattered and the best of their days remained ahead. The stories resonated, the students were engaged and the venue was abuzz with life. It was awesome.

About halfway through the program, I invited the students to turn to their neighbor and share a place in their lives where God had blessed them mightily. The students immediately turned, started sharing and the room filled with the voices of hundreds of kids excitedly sharing.

After a few minutes, and although it took a little coercing, I settled the room down and asked if anyone would share with the entire school.

Many hands were raised and I eventually called on a girl seated near the front.

Lily flashed a beautiful smile and wiped her joy-filled eyes as she prepared to take the microphone from me. I approached, thanked her, knelt before her and let her speak.

Lily shared it had been a difficult year for her. But she was grateful for this day, for this school, for her faith, and for her family. She was particularly grateful for the friends who stood by her even when things were hard for her. Lily paused and added that she got through the difficult days with their help.

It was a tender, honest, beautiful moment that moved everyone.

And it wasn’t over yet.

She got ready to hand the microphone back to me, but then spoke even more adamantly. After looking around at all of her schoolmates, she added, “And you all need to listen to this man! Do you have any idea how much courage it takes to stand before you and share a story like this? Do you have any idea how hard his life must be? Do you have any idea how lucky we are to have him with us today? Please listen to him and be grateful he’s with us. I am!”

It was one of the most surprising -and humbling- moments I’ve had as a speaker. Made even more meaningful considering Lily is just twelve years old.

My friends, the reality is I entered into that school physically in pain, emotionally drained and professionally wiped out.

But Emerson reminds us, “our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

That morning I was invited to be a source of inspiration and hope for these kids. Little did these students know that one of them, my friend Lily, would end up being that inspiration for me.

Today, strive to be that source of inspiration for others.

A kind word goes a long way. Just ask Lily. Or her new friend, John.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

11 replies on “We All Struggle Sometimes”

I heard you speak at U of Mary in Bismarck, ND a number of years ago. I follow your podcast and have read your books. You are an inspiration and your weekly message of hope lifts me up. God bless your ministry and may God continue to give you the strength to continue to share your passion with others. You are a gift to all of us!

The inspirational words on this site have helped change my days from some occasional depression to being able to take on the days head-on. Thanks for this.

God gave you comfort and strength through Lily that your words gave to her. I thank God for his messengers like you that remind us everyone is dealing with something and kind words and sharing our experiences are there to help someone – so pass it forward. Thank you John!

Kids know gratitude better than adults at times. Great story! Lily is so very smart, you have touched so many lives John!

Great message. I needed it today. Also experiencing too much stress and today’s story helped. I woke early at 5:30am as my mind was buzzing with too many thoughts. I got up made a hot cup of tea and ended up reading your story. Doing much better.
Thank you for doing what you do…inspiring others.

This is such a great reminder. Thank you for sharing. You are so encouraging and people can feel the love and desire you have for them to live inspired. I hear it in your voice and through the words you write. Keep being a blessing!

Thank you for sharing your life with God’s people. Lifting you up in prayer daily. May God’s face continue to shine on you and your family. I’m a friend of Brad and Adrienne Davis.

Thank you for sharing this story. It has inspired me to go forth this day and be grateful and try to inspire or support everyone I meet today. I too have been struggling with being motivated and feel down and overwhelmed with the day to day things going on because I have so many commitments right now. I just need to remember that I am able to complete one task at a time and move forward ! And Hod will provide. Thank you John.
PS. I worked on the Pediatric floor at St John’s and I took care of you once when you were on our floor for a few day after you got out of the burn unit. I am so grateful for your inspiring story everyday!

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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.