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"Choose To Make a Difference in the Life of Another"

Last week I had to go to the hospital to pick up some x-rays. Every time I've been back there, it always brought painful emotions to the surface. This was the same hospital where I watched the man I knew, loved, and admired suffer a terrible affliction. But on this occasion, I didn't have those despondent feelings. Although I'm quite cognizant of the fact that this was the place where my father fought the most difficult battle of his life, I realize now - after several months of careful reflection - that I can face these situations with a new inner strength. No longer does it drain me as it once did.

Of course, I miss my dad far beyond what I could ever communicate in words. I think of him every day and I would even concur that my longing for his return is stronger today than on the day he left us. But as I continually reflect on the life of my father and his powerful influence on me, I realize I'm growing in a new direction; perhaps, a path I would have never walked if he were still alive today.

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable. - Ann Morrow Lindbergh Time, February 1973

If I had it my own way, I would give up everything to have him home with my mom and my two brothers. But for some reason, God had a different plan for him and for us. Of course it doesn't fit into the dreams we had for our futures together. Nonetheless, with the lifelong sacrifice my parents gave to their three sons, I know he would challenge us to carry on with our callings.

I also know he would encourage us to go one step further: take what he and mother deposited into us and "invest" it into others. Carrying on is one thing but moving forward without serious reflection is a serious failure on our parts. This loss put an immediate halt to many of our plans, dreams, and ideas we had as a family. Personally, this has forced me to re-assess my life and my ability to leave something of real value when I leave this world, not so much in the way of tangible things, but something that endures time especially as it pertains to individuals.

Shortly after my dad died, I remember thinking to myself, "If I'm even a third of the man my father was, then I'm doing something right." I still feel that way. My father was unlike most husbands and fathers, and I would never place myself in such a category. I can only give my very best to honor him by living a life of integrity, of constant growth, and one that is Christ-like.

Even at my age, I'm already thinking through how I can make an indelible impact. With the people I interact with, relate to, and care for, I pray that our times together are more than just meetings. I want others to sense my genuine care for them. This is something that can only be modeled and lived out on a daily basis.

Everyday we have an opportunity to touch a life. Whether it's a smile, an e-mail, a letter of thanks, or simply a hug, choose to do something today to make a difference, while you have time and the ability. It doesn't take much. Don't wait until it's too late. Even when you don't feel like you have something to offer others, you do: YOU!

- Justin