By Barb Arland-Fye
Selflessness comes naturally for my husband Steve but is a work in progress for me. God provides inspiration along the way (in addition to Steve’s example) through the stories of other people, some known and unknown to me.
During our Christmas break while visiting family in the Twin Cities, we caught a story on a local TV newscast of a gifted pianist, diagnosed with ALS, who donated her baby grand piano to the Salvation Army. That organization lost its piano because of an arson-related fire, KARE 11 NBC reported.
Linda appears in the feature story, arduously playing notes on her beloved baby grand piano. I could sense the sadness in her recognition of the physical loss of her musical prowess because of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Reporter Boyd Huppert describes her as a devout Christian determined to live life to the fullest and to spread joy. The gift of her piano to the Brooklyn Park Salvation Army is an example. The space in her home that previously contained the piano is a reminder of both gift and sacrifice.
Before Christmas, Linda and her husband, Al, attended the Salvation Army’s annual Lucia Fest, where they listened to someone else play her piano during the children’s pageant. “I’m very happy,” she says. “This is where it belonged.”
Shortly after Christmas, I read a brief item in the Quad-City Times about Casey Ryan McIntyre’s debt jubilee. Casey, a 38-year-old wife, mother and book publisher, died from cancer on Nov. 12. Prior to her death, she had learned about RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 by two former debt collection executives concerned about Americans struggling with the weight of medical debt.
RIP Medical Debt, which buys up debt for a fraction of the original cost, accepts donations to help eradicate medical debt. The nonprofit reports that more than one-hundred-million Americans struggle with medical debt. The organization assists people most in need, whose households earn less than four times the federal poverty level (which varies by state and family size) or whose debts are 5% or more of annual income.
National Public Radio reports that Casey’s job provided her with health insurance that her husband described as “really excellent.” Inspired by the philanthropy of others, she and her husband “orchestrated what they called a ‘debt jubilee’ in her honor” through RIP Medical Debt.
In a social media post that she composed prior to her death, Casey wrote, “… to celebrate my life, I’ve arranged to buy up others’ medical debt and then destroy the debt. I am so lucky to have had access to the best medical care at @MSKCancerCenter and am keenly aware that so many in our country don’t have access to good care (https://bit.ly/CaseysMemorialAndDebtJubilee).
To date, Casey’s “debt jubilee” has generated more than $1 million in donations, according to the RIP Medical Debt tally board (http://tinyurl.com/5akyv99a).
The third story arrived in Facebook Messenger from a colleague, a former journalist who now is a teacher as is his wife. I had been following the story of Mike and Joyce, who took on the responsibility of fostering three young children. In a post-Christmas message, Mike informed his friends that he and wife now have five foster children, including a 5-month-old! At a time in his life when he could begin looking toward to retirement, Mike and Joyce have taken on an awesome responsibility with eyes wide open and a commitment to living the Gospel message.
Selflessness “means putting the good of others before your own, even if that means you must go without so that others can be happy. It means thinking about how things affect other people before thinking about how they will affect you,” Deacon Matthew Newsome wrote in a piece that appeared on the Western Carolina University website (Sept. 29, 2017). “It means suffering annoyances and even personal injustice with patience, without complaining. It means living for others more than for yourself.”
Inspiration for me to reflect on.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)