**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 5, No. 6 June/July 2003
On July 3, 2003, I had the rare opportunity to hear a former U.S. President speak in person to a Mennonite Church convention in Atlanta. Since leaving office, Jimmy Carter has used his position as a former President to work for peace and better health around the world. Last year he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Carter’s message was in the form of Sunday school reflections for which he has become famous in his home town of Plains, Georgia. What was remarkable about it was the simple humble way in which he spoke and particularly the illustrations he used.
Carter’s main theme was the meaning of “success” for the Christian. I was impressed by the fact that Carter’s political success does not seem to define who he is or what he has accomplished. He was much more interested in sharing about the role of the Carter Center in saving the eyesight of millions of Africans or of addressing deadly diseases like AIDS. He expressed his admiration for an inner-city Hispanic pastor spreading the faith among the folks in his city. And, of course, there were references to his work with Habitat for Humanity.
Perhaps the most poignant illustration, however, had to do with an award given by Norman Vincent Peale to a church in Georgia while Carter was governor of that state. This particular church was made up largely of persons with developmental disabilities. Carter said he was nervous because he was invited to speak along with Peale, and considered Peale the finest public speaker of the day. However, as it turned out, those who attended the ceremony, likely remembered nothing of what either man said.
Rather, it was a woman with Down Syndrome, asked to light a candle at a key point in the ceremony, who embodied the real meaning of “success” for those in attendance. Despite great difficulty and many people “holding their breath,” she persisted until she lit the candle. It was a sign of hope for all those who witnessed the scene.
Indeed, it is good for all of us to be reminded that it is often in the simple ordinary things that we find meaning and success. Success involves pushing oneself and reaching for our full potential, whatever our gifts and abilities might be. Success may even mean stepping down a notch in the world’s eyes in order to serve in the simple act of running a race, giving a hug, or building a house.
Those of us with children who face particular challenges know that we cannot define success in the same way for all people. What seems simple to someone may be a tremendous accomplishment for another person.
Yet, I would like to think that true success has one key ingredient that applies to everyone. True success touches the life of other persons in ways that make their lives better and build community. It may be something tangible, or it may simply be inspiration by example.
All of us can find ways of doing that. We don’t have to be a world leader and have a public stage in order to build up other people. The way that each of us lives shows whether we are about the “success” of own self-interest or about serving others.
May you find the blessings of successful living in community!
Paul D. Leichty
Phone/Fax: 1-877-214-9838 (toll free)
“People using Technology building Community”