I spent a few days in Huntington, West Virginia this month. It sits on the southern bank of the Ohio River, minutes from both Kentucky and Ohio. Although we flew in on the edge of a hurricane, it was the perfect time of year to visit this beautiful part of our country. The city is nestled inside lush hills, and the leaves had all turned gold and burgundy and burnt orange. Picturesque is the only accurate description.
The highlight of the trip was a complete surprise. It was one of those magical moments that seem almost too good to be true. We met a man who left an impression. His name is Rusty.
We had a little time to walk over to Marshall University. You can’t visit Huntington and not visit the Marshall University stadium. The Thundering Herd suffered a tragedy in 1970 memorialized in the movie We Are Marshall. The school has done a remarkable job of honoring the past and celebrating the future. The stadium was closed, but Rusty was cleaning the parking lot. We asked him if he would take our picture. Almost immediately he started sharing stories about Marshall. Rusty has worked there for 50 years. He grew up in a house that sat where the Marshall practice field sits now. Rusty has some stories.
But Rusty shared more than the story of Marshall. He shared his thoughts on life. He shared his wisdom. He told us that if he were rich (and after spending time with him- trust me that he is rich in all the ways that matter), he would give $25,000 to a young couple. “Can you imagine how much it would have helped to have someone get you started when you were young?” He also shared that he would sit down with the couple and their parents to make sure they had a good life plan. When Rusty imagines being rich, his thoughts do not go to what he could do for himself, but what he could do for others. And he recognizes that what we all really need is just a little help. “Imagine if everyone could just help one other person.”
Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed one.”
I watched one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing this weekend. Two West Wing staffers met a man in a bar who was taking his daughter on a college visit. He was talking about how hard it can be to provide for your family. “It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s a man’s job, a man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier, just a little easier. And that difference…is everything.”
As I watched it, I thought about Rusty. And I realized that we already have the capacity to make it a little easier. Imagine if everyone would help make one person’s life better, one situation a little easier. One person at a time we would make the difference for everyone.