The Most from the Least

Jim - Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Entered on November 18, 2008

I believe I’ve found the secret of life. It’s so simple, yet it eluded me for almost forty years. I don’t have a dramatic, page turning story to tell about my past. I consider myself, like most people probably do about themselves, an average Joe, enjoying his life while dealing with occasional highs and lows.

After being a dating bachelor in my thirties and wondering if I was ever destined to be married, I found my wife. A momentary wedded happiness was jarred by a gut wrenching divorce just months later. I was left a hollow shell of a person, and numbed the pain for several months by various means.

I got a glimpse of the dead end road I was heading down, so I found a local church, took a course called Alpha, and got involved in the church’s Men’s Group. A month later, I climbed in a van with a bunch of guys from this Group I hardly knew, and drove to New Orleans to help clean out houses affected by hurricane Katrina.

I brought my camcorder along to capture what I anticipated to be stories of down and out victims. Over the next week, I met people who, in many cases, lost everything, but believed they had everything. I met Tyrone, who referred to the hurricane as a blessing, because it was his wake up call to discover what really mattered. I met Theresa, whose beat up van held her few remaining possessions after Katrina, yet she thanked God every day for the abundant blessings in her life. Every person we’ve met on three mission trips to New Orleans, without exception, focused on what they still had, not what they lost in the hurricane. I am inspired to this day by their perseverance, their determination and their unwavering faith in better days ahead.

It was only through the suffering I experienced in my divorce that ultimately led me to Louisiana, where I learned firsthand what’s essential in life. I can never repay my New Orleans’ friends enough for the life lessons I received.

I believe good things come through suffering, whether it’s on a personal scale or a national tragedy. Through the suffering of others, I’ve seen a core goodness that’s tapped into and deeply connects what would’ve otherwise been total strangers, with no regards to race, economic status, or geographic location.

I believe I find fleeting happiness when I receive through my wants, but I find lifelong joy when I give, expecting nothing in return. And ironically, it’s when I expect nothing that I receive everything.

I’ve been remarried for almost a year now to my bride, Lisa, who I’m convinced, is my gift from God. In a few months we’ll be blessed with our first child. I already anticipate learning as much from my new son or daughter as they will from their dad, because I believe the secret of life is I learn the most from those who have the least.