Throwaway Time Changes Lives

Take a moment, please, and reflect on the last selfless thing that you did for someone. Can’t remember, eh? Probably humble. Or down on yourself and forgot on purpose. Possibly, but unlikely, you’ve never done anything selfless. I hope that isn’t the case. But if it is, read on and find out how one of those moments reduced me to tears twice in four hours.Two years after I’d performed that selfless act that meant very little to me but a great deal to others.

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It is my preference not to toot my own horn on charity. My exception is when it will encourage others to do the right thing. Today’s story is specifically targeted at those of you who do acts of charity, kindness, and grace without giving it a thought. Most of you don’t tell others about it – something about praying in closets versus on the street corner.

Two years ago my friend asked me to voice over a video he was working on about a Haitian Initiatve soccer team that was coming to Blaine, Minnesota to play in the Schwann’s Cup soccer event.

The script shows up in my email a few minutes later, and by then I’ve set up my microphone, powered the amp, and booted the computer. A couple of quick revisions to the script are done after watching the video he sent me. Three takes, email off the .mp3 files, and done. Total time: under an hour. Here’s the video for your perusal:

The video is beautiful, largely due to my friend’s amazing camera work. I dare you to find a photographer who does more with the poor of Haiti’s capital than this man. He represents them with dignity, honor, and a complete fly-on-the-wall set of photos that can only come from spending hundreds of hours in that city. He’s just part of the scenery in Cite Soleil.

The tournament comes and goes. The world turns, and almost two years pass. I was back in Haiti on a mission trip last week and we had a chance to tour Haitian Initiative. It was cool to see the soccer fields in person. The feeding center brought back memories of the video. Always nice to see the places and things I talk about for radio and television. It rarely happens.

The man who gave us the tour, and a talk about what the program means, is Makenzy Francois. The statistics are impressive: hundreds of children fed, kept in school, and growing to a healthy adulthood because of this program. It truly amazed me, and I was delighted to get to see the place.

The wheels started to come off about that point, near the end of the talk. Makenzy said, “But this is only possible because of the video Michael did. That turned the corner for us.” I turned around and looked at my friend, the videographer. He’s a humble man and I could see that he was embarrassed. The group got up, talk over, and headed back to the vehicles. I grabbed him and asked if it was the video we did two years ago. Yes. He took me to meet Makenzy, who was talking to our leaders. He introduced me as “the voice on the video.” Makenzy stopped dead. “You were my voice. You let the world hear me.”

By far the greatest compliment I have ever been paid as an actor.

He explained that until that video they’d been struggling. But once they had that video the fundraising had picked up and allowed the program to continue – even to grow. He was effusive in his thanks. I think he was. I’m not completely sure as I was trying not to sob.

Less than an hour of my very blessed life had been involved in that video. But I was his voice. I had a part in preventing teen pregnancy in Cite Soleil because the girls stayed in school and played soccer. The boys didn’t join gangs, but were now preparing for college. Children who didn’t grow properly were now gaining inches and muscle because of those meals they got in the program. I had made a difference.

I went outside and cried. I was ashamed to be so moved. I felt weak. God had just opened my eyes like Saul’s and it took every bit of strength and dignity out of my body. I was as weak as a four year old in Cite Soleil. I was floored by the fact that I, Joe Courtemanche, in concert with my friend, had done something so amazing by using the talent that God is allowing me to employ while I’m on this planet.

That night we had our evening meeting at the mission house. We share the “word of the day” around the dinner table. Mine was about what had happened at Haitian Initiative that afternoon. I told the story and was once again shattered.

God does that to us sometimes. He wants us broken so that he can mend us and use us as he needs. I have done dozens of voice projects for charities and good causes. Never charging a penny. That’s what I’m supposed to do if I’m living my life properly. Never once did I think that it would do anything except give a nice voice to a video, or a book for the blind.

But it did. It meant food, education, and a future for hundreds of kids in Haiti.

I can no longer ignore what I do for the good. I won’t trumpet it, but I will bask in the warmth of God’s glow when I help out my fellow man. I will be proud of that work, and encourage others to do the same. I will take my place in the Kingdom and work toward that grace that comes with knowing you’re really taking the yoke, and not just keeping pace with those that do the work.

We all can contribute in some way. Physical work, writing, singing, acting, or just washing the feet of the elderly. Done them all in my life. I’m coming out of the humble closet and letting you know that it feels absolutely magnificent to be doing His work on this planet.

What can you do with your talents to make a difference? Knit caps for newborns? Paint a picture? Record a book? Pack meals for Feed My Starving Children? Or, perhaps most importantly, hold a dying child who has never felt her mother’s breath on her face, and cradle her in your arms?

Find that talent. Use that talent. Honor God and remember to honor yourself.

Thanks for reading today.

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I appreciate your help. When we hit 2,000,000 readers I will give away something cool to a drawing from the subscribers (that’s the box on the right toward the top) who have helped promote this mess. No used sheets, probably not honey, more likely gift cards. Be a part of it. I’ll update from time to time where we’re at in the count. Thanks.

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