Growing up close to your family in the vastness of America’s heartland, you’ll inevitably learn something important: It’s not always about you.
I learned this lesson during one of the many road trips my family took to visit my brother. He lived in a Wisconsin home for people with developmental disabilities while I was growing up.
The 3 a.m. wake up time required to make the trek to visit my brother was thrilling for a strapping young boy. My parents and I would pack into our 1990’s minivan and drive for hours towards Wisconsin.
There were a few rules during the trip, but only one really mattered. I had to understand that the trip wasn't about me, it was about my brother. Everything we did while we were there revolved around him.
Like every other kid deprived of attention for a few moments, I didn’t like it. Sometimes, like any normal sibling his age, he would embarrass me. I didn’t like being around him in public because he was different and people would stare. But mom and dad firmly repeated, “We’re not here for you. We’re here for him.”
As I grew up, their message turned into a guiding mantra. I began serving others whenever I could. I started as a Boy Scout, first as a member then as a youth leader. The structure encouraged me to be a better person and did a lot to reinforce my parent’s message of selflessness. Now, as an adult, I volunteer at my church. My commitment to service has also taken me to central Asia, where I spent time working with an organization that supports orphanages in central Asia.
Being humble enough to recognize that you’re not the most important thing happening in the world is an invaluable trait. The selflessness it created propels action towards a greater cause.