Almost 10 years ago, in the spring of 2009, I was working with an organization taking college students on leadership and service programs abroad. Recently, I wrote a blog post about a message I gave at the end of one of these trips. Thinking back to those trips reminded me of one of the most impactful experiences from that season of my life.
On this specific trip, we took a group of students to South Africa and brought in speakers to teach—Vince Dooley, legendary UGA football coach and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and his wife Barbara. All of the students were especially excited to hear Coach Dooley speak because of his reputation—rightly so, he delivered a powerful message about teamwork! When his wife Barbara spoke, she engaged us in a very personal way. Her message applied to both leadership and to everyday life. With an uncanny humor that is unique to Barbara, she recounted her battle with breast cancer, explaining the ten best things about this disease (you read that correctly, her talk was about the best things about cancer).
Barbara is married to an incredibly successful man, she’s the mother of four children, her family is like royalty in the Georgia Bulldog community, she’s maintained her own successful career in real estate, and she’s lived a life that many would love to have. This is why it was so impactful to hear her work through her list and say that cancer taught her this important lesson: if money can fix it, it’s not a real problem.
I realize that some of you may read that statement and feel discouraged. Maybe you’ve lost your job or don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills this month. I certainly don’t want to minimize the stress you’re feeling, but I do want us all to seek a proper perspective of the problems we face.
How many times during the week do we hit the panic button? We run around like the sky is falling because the meeting didn’t go our way, we didn’t land the big client, we didn’t meet our quarter one goal, or we couldn’t complete the project on time. Barbara explained that before her diagnosis, so many of the things she viewed as problems were of a physical or material nature—they were things that could be resolved with money or things that wouldn’t matter down the road. But when she got the cancer diagnosis, or when your family member is battling severe mental illness, or when your relationship with your spouse feels irreparable, or when you experience another issue that no amount of money, connections, or influence can solve, that’s when you have a real problem.
My hope is that this blog serves as a reminder to all of us to take a deep breath and realize that the things we’re facing that seem insurmountable or all-consuming may actually be very small if viewed through the proper lens. It’s not that our problems don’t matter, but when we put them next to something bigger, they become less of a burden.
I also want to offer encouragement to those of you who are facing a real problem. Just like Barbara, you have a different perspective than most of the people around you, and your outlook on life allows you to see things for what they are. You’re able to keep the big things big and the small things small, embracing what’s most important.
Whether you’re walking through a real problem or putting out the fires of daily life, I hope you’ll endeavor to see each issue for what it is and come alongside the people God has placed in your life, caring for them and encouraging them to do the same.
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