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Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

[Chorus]
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.*

It was one of those weeks. Actually, not even one of ‘those’ weeks. Something entirely different. It has instead been a week that has been emotionally-taxing on my soul.

A dear friend from high school left for the trip of a lifetime with her sweet family. It was something they talked about for the past six months. The anticipation and excitement grew. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was time to board the plane and go. We exchanged notes of thanks and good luck over Facebook and went about our separate ways. But only hours later – Wednesday morning – she mentioned that they were at the hospital; her 4-year-old Mia, a heart transplant recipient, wasn’t feeling well and appeared to have pneumonia. Only a few short hours later the devastating news was shared: her heart was in rejection and she needed the support of a heart and lung machine (ECMO) in order to survive.

Loved ones began to rally. Prayers were offered by friends. Little ones dressed in red, Mia’s favorite color. Mamas showed signs of support by sharing heart photos. An online donation page was even established. Talk about an outpouring of love and support! And for the next 48 hours I watched as people across the nation held tight to their faith in God that 4-year-old Mia would turn around and a miracle would come.

Today, sadly, we learn that Mia’s time on earth is running short. And while a mere four days ago she was dreaming of a trip to the happiest place on earth, tonight her family sits at her bedside in a hospital far, far from home as they prepare for the dreaded task of saying good-bye.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a loved one. I don’t know how parents survive after placing a child in the ground. But during my time working with children facing life-threatening medical conditions I met many, many parents who have done just that. Each and every one of them is a hero to me. They have done the unthinkable, yet find it in their hearts to not turn on God, but rather find strength in Him. They smile. They share their story with others. They know that God is good.

Perhaps that is why I needed to lose myself in service. I was feeling, well, you know. Yucky. Slimy. Guilty that my own children are strong and healthy. So when the opportunity arose to prepare a meal for guests currently staying at the local Ronald McDonald House, I jumped at the chance to serve. And you know what they say about service – those who serve get just as much out of the service as those who receive. After watching the heartbreaking situation my friend is going through, going out and serving is the LEAST I could do for my fellowman.

Ronald McDonald HouseThe home itself is beautiful. Located on Watertown Plank Road, the Ronald McDonald House of Eastern Wisconsin has the ability to house 38 families a night. Families are only asked to pay $10 per night, but no family is ever turned away for their ability to pay. More than 1,000 families stayed at the home in 2011, but another 806 were turned away, due to high occupancy.

RMH heartOutside the home, a giant heart with the initials ‘RMH’ sits on the front lawn.

“How fitting,” I thought – as my week has become consumed with thoughts of little Mia and her failing heart.

Once inside I immediately felt a spirit of love. I believe in heaven, and that’s the only way I can think of to describe the feeling in the RMH. It felt like heaven.

RMH volunteerRMH crock potsA wonderful volunteer showed us the ropes. We were to set up our crock pots and salads and then help the house guests with any dinner-related questions they may have.

At six o’clock prompt the families began to file in to the dining room. One woman sat alone, off to the side of the hall. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind my company and we started talking about the one thing we have in common – being moms. The evening began to quickly pass as I found myself serving those in need.

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
’Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.

Perspective. Now instead of sitting on the couch and feeling sorry for myself, I find myself getting lost – lost in service.

*Text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847–1909, alt.

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So it turns out I have a new hobby. A new way to kill time. Yet another way to connect with colleagues, friends and co-workers. I PUSH the little plus sign when I visit their Linkedin profile. That’s right… I ENDORSE my contacts. And truthfully, it IS that easy.

Different from Linkedin’s ‘Recommendation‘ feature, an Endorsement allows those who know you best to ‘Endorse’ your areas of expertise.

ImageFor example: I have experience using Raiser’s Edge, so a former supervisor has endorsed me… she has clicked the plus sign and by doing so acknowledges that this is an area I am competent in. (She was also kind enough to endorse me in quite a few other areas, including Microsoft Office, Outlook, Non-profits, Fundraising, Community Outreach, Social Networking, Media Relations, Public Relations and Public Speaking – to name a few. And she would know – SHE was my boss!)

Endorsements are a new idea, but I really like them. For someone looking for a new job, the endorsements feature allows employers to browse the individual’s skills and see which areas have been endorsed by others. For this reason I take my endorsing very seriously. While I know that my cousin is a teacher, I won’t endorse him as a teacher because I haven’t worked with him in this role. But I’ve seen his stand up comedy acts at family parties, so I might endorse him as a stand-up comedian. I know that my friend from church works in sales, but I’ve only worked with her on volunteer matters that are church-related. So I wouldn’t feel comfortable endorsing her work in sales, but I’d be more than happy to endorse her as a volunteer. A former co-worker has changed careers, so I would feel comfortable endorsing those skills that she shared when we worked together, but I can’t speak for what she does now as the work we do no longer shares a common interest. You get the idea.

ImageTo start endorsing simply log in to Linkedin and visit a colleague’s profile. Across the top of the page you’ll get a pop up box asking if your colleague has the following skills or expertise. Note that this is just a sampling of skills, not necessarily all of the skills your colleague has listed. What I love about this is the flexibility you have in endorsing. In my friend Steve’s case, if I don’t feel comfortable endorsing him in ‘Sales Management’ I can simply click the ‘x’ and close that skill, then go ahead and click the ‘Endorse’ button, and endorse the other four skills all with one click of the mouse. If I want to add to the list I can click in the box where it says ‘Type another area of expertise…’ and add another skill that I want to endorse. This is a great feature because Steve may have overlooked a skill that I really feel should be added to his profile.

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If you prefer to endorse skills one at a time you can just scroll down your friend’s page and look for the list of skills. Simply arrow over to the right side of the page and click the + sign for each skill you’d like to endorse.

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If you do chose to endorse a friend by clicking multiple skills at a time, once you complete your endorsement your screen will update to a grouping of four different colleagues. This is where you can really start to have fun. It’s a lot like playing a card game. You go through and click ‘Endorse’ on the ones you feel comfortable endorsing, and once you do the card will update to a new contact. Better yet, click ‘Endorse all 4’ and then get four new faces all at once. Go ahead. Give it a try. I DARE you to tell me it’s not addicting!

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As popularity of the Endorse feature grows your colleagues will soon catch on. The hope is that not only will they benefit from being endorsed by you, but that you’ll soon benefit from all of those who return the favor.

So go ahead and visit your Linkedin account and start endorsing. Leave a comment and let me know how it goes.

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Who Reads the Bible, Anyway?

Earlier this week an AP Literature instructor at a San Jose high school asked his class if anyone in the room knew the meaning of the word ‘mammon’. The word came up after students discussed their current reading and one boy said he came across the word and didn’t know what it was.

The teacher eyed the students as he asked his question and one lone boy raised his hand.

“Rhett, please tell us what mammon is,” Mr. Patterson instructed.

The teen answered by explaining that mammon is riches or worldly things.

Mr. Patterson smiled.

“Where does it come from?” he asked.

“The Bible,” Rhett replied.

At this point all eyes were on the young man.

“Where?” Mr. Patterson challenged.

“Matthew chapter 6 verse 24,” came the answer.

At this point Mr. Patterson was grinning from ear to ear.

“What does it say?”

Rhett replied, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

Rhett happens to be my kid cousin. (Can you call a 17-year-old senior in high school a kid?) I’m closer to his mom, really; she’s only a few years older than me. But when she shared this experience Rhett had with his peers earlier this week, I couldn’t help but feel a deep respect for the boy half my age.

Rhett told his mom that by the time he finished quoting the scripture ‘there were literally open mouths and stares of utter disbelief from the students. He even got a comment from one of his friends “Mormon freak!'”

Mr. Patterson went on to ask how many of the students in the class go to church and again, Rhett was the only one to raise his hand. Mr. Patterson continued, “I think I’m going to make it a requirement for you to attend church at least twice a semester.”

Rhett’s mom tells me that Mr. Patterson ‘continued by explaining that the Bible is the most widely read text (except, perhaps for the Koran, because there are more Muslims than Christians) and that there are so many references to it in the literature they will be reading this year.’

Today I’m very proud of my kid cousin. I have to be honest… I too didn’t know what ‘mammon’ was when the email from my aunt came through. Then again, I’ve never read the Bible from cover to cover. I too studied it in school, as part of a required (well, required by my parents) religious curriculum. I know at one point I even memorized that verse that Rhett was able to spit right out. But if someone were to ask me today if I know what mammon is, sadly, I would have had to shake my head ‘no’.

I admit – I’m terrified to see the situation our world is in today. I worry about my own children and the hardships they will face as they grow older. I hate to think of an end-of-the-world (as I like to call it) situation happening and my children struggling to survive. But I also believe in establishing a firm foundation. I believe that we will be saved if we have built our house on a rock, as the children’s song goes. And when I hear stories like this one about Rhett, I find comfort in knowing we have great leaders among us, growing today to lead tomorrow.

Maybe my little ones will grow to be great leaders themselves. Whether they do, or not, there’s no question in my mind that Rhett will be ready to step forward and pave the way for others to follow.

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