By John O'Leary. This was originally posted on JohnOLearyInspires.com. When John O'Leary was 9 years old, he suffered burns over 100% of his body and was expected to die. He is now an inspirational speaker and bestselling author, teaching more than 50,000 people around the world each year how to live inspired. John's first book, ON FIRE: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life was published March 15, 2016. John is a contributing writer for Huff Post and Parade.com. John is a proud husband and father of four and resides in St. Louis, MO. Order John’s book today anywhere books are sold.
As schools prepare to open, it’s a great time to reflect on some highlights from summer before it fades.
For me, the list includes morning walks with Beth, a slower pace at work, evening swims with Grace, playing cards with my boys and family vacations to Michigan and Florida. One highlight, however, started as a bad experience, became even worse and through a new friend’s generosity was transformed into a highlight. Let me explain.
On our last night vacationing with my parents, five siblings and 21 cousins in Florida a bunch of the younger kids wanted to get ice cream together. Beth and I loaded them up into a golf cart, double buckled a few, triple buckled the rest and began the short commute. The night was cool, the stars were out, the kids were laughing, the week had been perfect and the glistening lights of the ice cream hut appeared in sight. Everything was perfect.
Until the bright red and blue lights of a police car pierced the darkness and sirens shrieked over the sounds of nature. My heart sank – as did my pride – as I pulled the golf cart off the road into a parking lot used as overflow for the ice cream stand. (A little golf cart pulled over with seven kids in it became quite the spectacle for an extensive line of customers waiting for their ice cream.)
While they gawked at us, the kids behind me started asking questions.
“Why did they pull you over, Dad?”
“Are they going to take you to jail, Uncle John?”
“Will this be your first time in jail?
“Does this mean no ice cream?”
The officer approached and explained that although our headlights were on, the taillights weren’t. She needed to run my license, but would get us out of here as quickly as she could.
After getting my license back, I thanked the officer, double checked that the tail lights were on, pulled out of the spot and finished the commute. We parked, the kids popped out, skipped to the end of the line, and waited to place our order. It had been a bit of an ordeal, but the night was back on track.
Until Beth whispered to me, “You have cash, right? This place doesn’t take credit.”
My heart sank as I realized neither of us had brought cash.
We looked at these little kids, with the realization the place was closing shortly. There wasn’t time to run back for cash. The little ones were going to be disappointed.
We started telling the kids what happened, prepared to step out of line and dejectedly return to the golf cart, defeated.
Until a gentleman a few people behind us heard our conversation, approached and shared that he’d like to buy our family ice cream. After repeatedly telling him that his offer was too generous, we had too many kids, it cost too much, he shared:
“John, I actually read your book ON FIRE. I loved it. And I’d love to buy your family’s ice cream.”
My friends, the suntan from that Florida sun has faded. The shells collected from the beach have been misplaced. The sand has finally been washed out of the clothes and the ice cream stains removed from the kids’ shirts.
But none of us will forget our last night.
We won’t forget the series of mistakes that almost made the night a total failure.
And we won’t forget the unexpected generosity of a stranger who did far more than buy ice cream for a bunch of kids.
What he really did was remind a line of onlookers that anyone can stand back, gawk and feel sorry for another.
But the opportunity we all have is to not merely observe what’s wrong with someone else, but to care enough to step up, to walk over and to try to do something that makes a difference.
We all know life is not perfect. We all know it’s hard. We all sometimes struggles with self-doubt and self-worth.
Until someone shows up. Reminding us that we are loved, our life matters and the best is yet to come.
Take the opportunity today to be that person for someone else.
Today is your day. Live Inspired.
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