Everybody can be great

Our son Matt in June 2012, with one of his favorite people, Tilly, who comes from England
each summer to help young people with disabilities have a great time at camp.

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

These beautiful words are being quoted more frequently in recent days as the nation prepares to honor Dr. King’s memory with “A day on, not a day off.”  Community service projects are planned throughout the USA as a way to honor Dr. King’s call to service.  As a minister, King took seriously the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:11-12: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Some of the greatest people I know will never be famous, powerful or rich.  They are the women and men who prepare meals for church potlucks and homeless shelters.  They teach in a variety of locations, from school classrooms to prisons.  They clean our buildings, drive our buses, fly our airplanes and watch over our loved ones who are sick or disabled.

I have seen many of these people up close for years, because our younger son was born with multiple disabilities.  As an adult, he depends on the kindness of countless people: doctors, nurses, job coaches and respite providers, and many others too numerous to mention.

The high point of his year is always a week or two at summer camp, where he and other young adults with disabilities gather with non-disabled peers who come from many countries to provide a safe and caring place to have fun.  Because of the wide range of disabilities among the campers, these camp staffers work long and often gruelling days, with tasks most people would shun, but their enthusiasm and love for the job is always evident.  It would be impossible for me to put into words the gratitude I feel for these wonderful people.

The really great thing is that the campers also serve.  Their humor, forgiving spirit and persistence through frustrating obstacles are an inspiration to those who have the heart to interact closely with them.  Though we all have different gifts, “anybody can serve.”

Next time you are working hard and feel taken for granted, remember the people who count on your service, and know that you are appreciated more than you may realize.


  1. Thank YOU! Agape LOVE…

    • Thanks Kate. Hope all is going well with you and your family.

  2. Patricia Salamone

    Beautiful post Julia. It made me stop and think. The best gift we can give is the gift of self. I think that is the one gift that counts. In the end it is how many lives we touch that makes us a success.:o)

    • And I think, in today’s world especially, what people most need is to be in contact with others. I have heard so many people say that they feel isolated. One of the things I love best about any kind of volunteer work is that it really creates bonds among the people involved.

  3. Matt is so precious! He serves people with his smile & his ‘open arm’ caring of others–I love it! Thank God that he goes to camp. This is where he can be himself & the volunteers do all they can to make it a very fulfilling & fun time. I remember those times at MDA camp with Marcus & you are right, it ws the highlight of his year. I still have a poster where he was a poster child. God uses everyone to show the love of Him. Matt is that face of LOVE!

    • Thank you Renee. You have walked this road ahead of us and you really do understand how much we appreciate those who love our children. Thank you for being such a great example of pressing on through sorrow and loss.

  4. Ellis Anderson

    Thank you so much for this!!! And the picture! I too, am so grateful to so many.

    • Ellis, you have seen (and written about) the wonderful magic that happens when people come together for a good cause. Thanks for your example of service, which goes all the way back to our college days when I saw you (and you alone) take it on yourself to care for a girl in the dorm no one knew very well, who was extremely sick, until she could get to a doctor. You may not even remember it, but I have never forgotten it.

  5. Carlyle

    Thanks for providing an inspiring thought to begin our week. Lovely picture of Matt and Tilly.

    • Thanks Daddy, glad you like the photo. Tilly is wonderful and the various camps Matt has attended in many places over the years (Texas, California and now here in Virginia) have been such a blessing to him and us.

  6. I can tell by the big smile on Matt’s face that he’s in a happy and caring place. It’s so nice to be part of a generous community. How amazing that Tilly comes all the way from England, that’s tremendously giving. Heartwarming story, thank you for sharing this.

    • Many of the camps where Matt has stayed have staff that come from England and Europe, others even from Australia and probably a few other countries. Many of them come year after year. The fun and joy at these camps is always a blessing to see.

  7. Our precious, precious Matt! Thank you for posting this. He is indeed special person. I am so proud that he is my nephew!

    • Thanks Carla, I’m glad you liked the photo!

  8. Sheila

    Julia,although I read and enjoyed this so much earlier today,my reply is rather late. What a handsome son! We see and help so many young people in our prosthetic and orthotic business and I marvel at my husband’s love, compassion,kindness and desire to make their quality of life better. I know it is God given! Five years ago, when Bill was diagnosed with a life threatening autoimmune disease,he was faced with giving up his practice and going on disability insurance. His decision was quite simply,”No, I still have many people to help!”
    Isn’t it amazing how we are put in others lives for a reason! I so hope your family has had a good day. With a prayer,Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Your husband definitely has a much-needed calling. Since Jeff has been taking chemo at Walter Reed, we see a lot of “Wounded Warriors” who have prosthetic legs (often the type that look kind of like skis) and it amazes me how gracefully they can walk and move. If you only saw them from the waist up, you would have no idea they are using prosthetics. Every time I see one of these brave soldiers I feel thankful for people such as your husband who are helping to make their return to normal life possible. God does work through people who help each other — it’s why we need to keep our eyes and ears open to see who might need us. Thanks again.

  9. Thanks for the inspirational quote and thoughtful reflections. I hope you had a great MLK day!

    • Thanks, we did have a great day and hope you did too!

  10. Larry

    No better words can Matt say that brighten a day for one when he says “Grandmother”. His voice is so happy though the miles may be far, his time talking brightens all our days. God truly has blessed us with a special servant, Matt!

    • Thanks Larry. Matt always enjoys talking with Grandmother, even though he doesn’t care for the phone in general (much like his father :-)!)

  11. Best post. Service is humanity and ultimately Divine.

    • Thanks so much, I’m glad you liked it!

  12. Beautiful post Julia. love u..

    • Thanks so much, I am glad you like it!


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