What are "we the living" highly resolved to do with the rest of our lives? Now that I'm in my sixties I can see the end of life approaching in the not too distant future. Gradually, I am losing my old friends to death. This has begun to happen far too early in my life. I had hoped that experience might be delayed until my 90's or later. Losing friends to death might cause us to ponder on the question of what we will do with the time remaining to each of us.
Recently my wife, Susan, and I traveled to Portland to attend the memorial service held there for my good friend and business associate, Jim Fee. I've written about Jim in past articles (See: Link and See also: Link). As we sat through the service we came to further appreciate Jim's legacy. As we entered the cathedral where the service was held we were handed a small picture of Jim. On the back of the picture were these words: "If you do things for yourself, it dies with you; if you do things for others, it lives on." When I got home I taped these words up on my computer to remind me of that thought. The words caused me to take some time to ponder on the lessons I had learned from Jim's good example over the 24 years that I've known him.
Driving up and down the freeway the last two weeks I've seen billboards suggesting that we get to know the Gettysburg address and that we live it. In my mind I was reviewing the words of that speech, a speech given by President Lincoln at the dedication of the Gettysburg battle war memorial and cemetery during the Civil War. The words of that address rolled around in my head (I could still remember most of it as I had to memorize it for Mr. Dowdle's speech class in the eight grade). Part of that talk reads, " …it is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…" Of course we can, as Lincoln suggested, dedicate ourselves to the cause for which those soldiers died. In a broader sense, however, we might ask ourselves, "What causes will we give the last full measure of our devotion to in the years remaining to each of us?"
My friend Jim Fee retired a few years ago. He met an Olympic runner, Julius Achon, who has dedicated his life to helping orphan boys in the war torn country of Uganda. Jim knew this was the place for him to dedicate his retirement years. He became anxiously engaged in that good cause. The story of how the Achon Uganda Children's Fund came into existence is a great one. You can read about it here: Link and here: Born to Run Back–Link.
Jim left this life at peace with himself. He had accomplished many great things, and claimed that he had completed the major things he wanted to complete in this life. His life was shorter than any of us had expected it to be. He lived almost 68 years. Personally, I thought he would live into his 90's as he was an avid marathoner and was in terrific shape. Perhaps out of all his accomplishments, Jim would be most proud of his family, and of the work he has completed in support of Julius Achon's thirty seven orphans.
Today Susan and I received a letter from Jim's wife, Angela. In her letter she notes the following: " "You may be aware that Jim, along with his friend Julius, helped to build a medical clinic in the war ravaged region of Norther Uganda. The Kristina Health Center (KHC), the first medical clinic of its kind, was funded solely by grants and donations to AUCF. Since the facility opened one year ago, over 4,500 patients have been treated. There is a full time medical staff of five Ugandans who live on campus. The goal of the clinic is to be self-sustaining. Jim was very proud of the fact that as of this month, almost 60% of operations are covered by nominal patient payments."
She went on to write, "We are in the midst of a KHC Phase II expansion adding an 18-bed patient ward and second medical staff living quarters to an existing 10-room clinic and living quarters. I am proud to report that Julius and the local staff have decided to name the patient ward after Jim. It will be dedicated the spring of 2014."
Finally she wrote, "Lastly, on November 8th, the 3rd annual Nike sponsored Julius Achon Run will be held in Orum, the site of Julius' primary school. Twelve hundred fifty boys and girls will race. The Achon Run is the first formal competition in Northern Uganda since the civil war began almost 25 years ago. The run has become enormously popular with 45 schools participating this year- providing a goal for the student athletes to target during the year."
I'm proud of my friend Jim, of the life he lead, of his contributions to business, to his family, to his friends and to these orphans in Uganda, a half a world away. His life has caused me to rethink my life and to rededicate myself to give the "last full measure" of whatever devotion I have left to give to those good causes in which I am anxiously engaged. I hope you will take the time to ponder your life, and make commitments to be heavily and anxiously engaged in good causes with what time is remaining to you. Sort out the things you care about and focus on those that will do the most good. Ask yourself what legacy you want to leave behind. What will you do for others that will live on after you pass?
Remember what was printed on the back of Jim's picture at his memorial: "If you do things for yourself, it dies with you; if you do things for others, it lives on." Do some good in the world today. Maybe you'll want to start with a donation to the Kristina Health Center in Uganda or to the Achon Uganda Children's Fund.
See: Runnersworld–Jim Fee, Charitable Ally of Ugandan Olympian–Link
See: Achon Uganda Children's Fund–Link
See: Good Samaritans Give Family Precious Time–Link
See: Born to Run Back–Link
See: Parable of the Good Samaritan– Link