Have you ever had a day when you meet someone who reminds you to ask yourself the essential questions? When hearing them tell their story reminds you that your work matters. That showing up matters.
Why Me? Who Cares? What More Can I Do?
I had the pleasure of hearing John O’Leary speak, and his story was one of incredible resiliency and hope. He was in a life-altering fire at 9 years old. Burning over 98% of his body. His story was not only about his tragic circumstance but about important people determined to remind him not to give up. To fight to live. They challenged him to find hope and even moments of joy in the midst of it all. I was struck by the almost audacious asks of the adults who commanded him to live to fight the fight of his life. To learn the piano even though his fingers were burned and amputated. At first, my reaction was shocked! Piano lessons? And then I remembered when my husband had critically injured his hand. Playing the guitar was his best therapy. The traditional physical therapy was painful and tedious. But the distraction of music and thinking through the notes…it allowed him to learn to use his hand again. It wasn’t easy. But if he hadn’t figured out how to do his new normal, he would suffer even longer. Learning how to work through the pain. Figuring out how to position his hand and remaining fingers. John’s mother was strategic in her actions. It must have taken such courage to insist John take weekly lessons. Especially when he didn’t understand the purpose.
Another part of his story that intrigued me was the fact that legendary sports announcer, Jack Buck stepped into his life and became an influential voice of encouragement over decades of interactions. Jack was moved by John’s tragedy and then invested his heart into encouraging John until the end of Jack’s life. The impact of that firm and steady voice consistently reminding John to” live.” Hearing how John, in all of his broken hopelessness, was continually placed upon Jack’s heart. This continuous nudging to plead in prayer, “What more can I do?” I walked out teary-eyed and recommitted to the students (some, not much older than 9) who sit before me week after week in Strengths Mentoring Groups- broken, hopeless, scared, confused. I will try to be that voice in their ear saying, “Don’t give up! Live.”
I want to live like Jack.
I will also continue to be obedient to the situations that burden my heart to the point where I am desperate for God to show up and to equip me to discover new ways of answering that question, “what more I can do?” John O’Leary made an excellent point, “Don’t stay in the hopeless. There is no period at the end. God’s promises don’t expire and are not dependent on my heart and mind.” What is on your heart today that makes you desperate for a way to help. Listen to that voice. You might be surprised at the answer on the other side of that question. You might be the one used to breathe life into a hopeless situation. Who has been that voice in your desperate and hopeless seasons?
Thank you John O’Leary. I am grateful to have heard your story. By allowing God to break our hearts for others. God used you to remind me of the mission that He had me asking those pertinent questions over- Why me? Who Cares? What more can I do? These have been prayed through tears at times for the students I have the honor to mentor. I was also blown away when you described Jack’s final visit. Something you may not realize is that pouring his heart into you was breathing life into Jack even as he was at the end of his life. I know this. Because this is my story too.
I am inspired.
If you would like to read more on John O’Leary’s story or follow his inspirational books, blogs and podcasts: