How often have you put yourself first? How often do you make sure you get into a building when it is raining but don’t think about the person coming right behind you?
My entire life I put myself first. What strikes me most when reflecting on how often I put myself first is that even with small stuff, I put myself first. I have been married for just over a year, and although I have a wonderful wife who is very patient and loving towards me, I have seen first-hand how often I put myself first.
When entering a restaurant, I open the door for myself and enter first. When eating, I don’t even take a second to breathe to ask my wife if she wants to taste my food before it’s all gone. Before leaving work for the day, I make sure I am fed, well-hydrated, and out the door fast– often times leaving dirty dishes and messes behind for my wife to deal with.
How often are you in line and get annoyed when someone cuts you as if it’s the end of the world? When you are driving and someone has the audacity to cut you off (obviously they didn’t know you have places to be), how do you respond? Better yet, how do you react when the coronavirus strikes and someone took the last roll of toilet paper on the shelf (keep in mind you don’t even really need this toilet paper, you are just worried there will never be more made)?
I wonder what would happen if our perspective changed. What if next time we put ourselves last in line? What if next time instead of judging someone for cutting us off, we happily let them and hope everything in their world is okay. I recently started doing this (although it goes against every habit ever imagined) putting myself last and it’s amazing how much more full I feel inside.
The story outlined in 2 Kings 4:1-7 where Elisha (one of God’s prophets) stepped up for a desperate widow in the most selfless way shows us the power of this practice. She reached out to him after her husband died and asked for help to keep the debt collectors from taking her two boys as slaves. Can you imagine losing your husband or wife, then having no money to pay debt collectors who were coming to take your kids?!
But Elisha stepped up to perform a miracle! He instructed her sons to go and collect empty jars as many as possible. Through one small jar of olive oil, she filled all of the free jars her neighbors had given her. When there was one jar left, the oil stopped flowing. Picture this, you just lost a very close family member– father, mother, husband, wife—and now the debt collectors are coming to take the little family you do have left. In come strangers using what may seem like nothing (one small jar of olive oil) to pay off your debt and help you live off the rest!
As I am personally reading this and reflecting on the power of less me, I think of all of the wonderful people in my life whom have put their needs before mine and my families:
Mrs. and Mr. Woods—a loving, selfless family who watched me when I was younger; Ms. Furrey – my Spanish to English teacher; a little group of Mexican men who let me and my family live in their attic when we had nowhere else to go; my mother who would let us eat before her when we had little food; Mr. Schimmel—my middle school basketball coach who would share the gospel through coaching and patience; Coach Isles and Coach Cobb—two high school coaches who would spend countless hours helping young boys become men; Ched Gonzales—a friend who always put me and my family before herself, financially helping me out a ton; Yvette & Ron Hernandez– a couple who loved on me and encouraged me through work every single day; Argie Gonzales– this dude who would give me free shoes, shirts, etc… (little did he know how much that helped me out when I had negative dollars to my name in college); Aruna Namburi—a true example of selflessness. If I ever needed anything, big or small, the answer was always yes; Jo Lee Hayes—a mentor who taught me what true professionalism is, sponsored me through college, and a true believer of giving to others; Brian Delaney/Trent Roberts/Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity—brothers who believed in me, poured encouragement into me, and helped when needed; Ron Barnes—a friend of a friend who became a mentor and is always just one call away with old fart wisdom; Tyler Biggs—a rival Fraternity guy who sacrificed medical school to help young men grow in college in eternal ways; The Lee Family–my in laws, who love on me and welcomed me into this family from Day 1; Ms. Christie Lee—the most cheerful, kind, loving, generous mother-in-law a guy could ask for; and lastly, my wife, Cami Velazquez, who loves me, even when I forget to hold the door open for her.
I am very grateful for all the people named who put me before them! I am sure there are many more names and I apologize if I missed you, you know who you are. Although this is not our natural tendency when I practice this, I found much more pleasure/happiness in less me. You never know what someone else is going through, or who just got diagnosed with cancer. Try something as simple as letting one person ahead of you in line or keep the door open for someone or say something encouraging about the person who cuts you off while driving. Give this a shot, and let me know how you feel afterward. Although it may not feel natural, I bet you will feel much different– maybe even better than when you put yourself first. Who knows? You might even change someone’s horrible day just by this one act of kindness. Get out there and be selfless, we all need it!