“You know,” he said after a while , “it’s kids’ stuff, but I always thought my obituary would be in all the newspapers, that I’d have a story worth telling. I always had this secret suspicion that I was special.”
– Augustus (Gus) Waters, from The Fault in Our Stars
I can personally resonate with what Gus is saying. I want a story worth telling. I want to be special.
I can honestly say that my desire to be special, to have a story worth telling, is mostly altruistic. I want to make a lasting, meaningful difference in the world before I leave it.
My understanding of how to actually measure the difference I am making has changed significantly over my 47 years, and continues to evolve. As I get closer to my 50th birthday – a significant milestone event in my life – I am becoming more anxious about making a difference. I feel like if I am really going to make a big splash, now is the time.
Many of the ways I believe people do make a big splash in the world continue to elude me.
- Becoming the charismatic leader of a large world changing movement, like a Compassion International a Philippine Frontline Ministries, a New Thing, a Community Christian Church
- Write a widely published book / Be an inspirational speaker.
- Having the resources to take diamonds in the rough, and equip them to become all God made them to be. (And I mean real resources, like money, time, businesses, etc)
- Being ridiculously generous
- Be widely known as someone who is one of the best in the world at doing something worth-while
I’m not saying I get out of bed every morning intentionally trying to create one of these specific destinies, but I find myself measuring the success of my life against them.
Many of the people with whom I am able to engage in meaningful conversation, beyond the superficial talk, express similar concerns – sometimes directly, often times indirectly.
Something inside of me wants to fight against these particular ways to measure the impact of my life. When I search the scriptures, when I pray, meditate and reflect, a little voice shouts in my head that I have the wrong perspective, the wrong context.
The following quotes from the movie, Fault in our Stars resonate with that little voice shouting inside of me. How do they make you feel? If you haven’t seen the movie please do! It was incredibly meaningful for me. I well up with emotion just reading the quotes. It was a powerful story.
“If you don’t live a life in service of a greater good , you’ve gotta at least die a death in service of a greater good, you know? And I fear that I won’t get either a life or a death that means anything.”
– Gus Waters
“People will say it’s sad that she (Hazel Grace Lancaster) leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad…It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? …The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.”
– Gus Waters
Quote Three (in its entirety):
“You know,” he (Gus Waters) said after a while , “it’s kids’ stuff, but I always thought my obituary would be in all the newspapers, that I’d have a story worth telling. I always had this secret suspicion that I was special.”
“You are,” I (Hazel Grace Lancaster) said.
“You know what I mean, though,” he said.
I did know what he meant. I just didn’t agree. “I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one,” I told him. “You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.”
“I don’t think I’m gonna make it to write your obituary,” he said, instead of apologizing.
I was so frustrated with him. “I just want to be enough for you, but I never can be. This can never be enough for you. But this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life. I’m sorry if it sucks. But you’re not going to be the first man on Mars, and you’re not going to be an NBA star , and you’re not going to hunt Nazis. I mean, look at yourself, Gus.”
I often feel like Gus – and Hazel. I feel like being loved deeply, and loving deeply, is better than loving widely. But that is not what the world tells me. That is often not what my brothers and sisters in the faith tell me – or at least what they show me.
Can I really live a a story worth telling if I am not going to be an NBA star or be the first man on Mars?
I want to believe the answer is yes. I just don’t know how to prove it. How to articulate it well. How to share that answer with others…but I’m working on it 🙂