Let me begin today’s message by saying, once again – CONGRATULATIONS MICHIGAN JAYCEES for being a growth state at +4 members for the First Quarter our year. As President Fay said, we couldn’t have done this without all of your hard work and your belief that we are indeed the greatest young person’s organization in the world.
Secondly, I want to give partial credit for today’s message to my priest Fr. Ken Schmidt of the St. Thomas More Student Parish in Kalamazoo Now, don’t worry folks … I’m not about to get all Catholic preachy on you this morning. I’ll just share with you that Ken’s homily this past Easter got to me and it got me thinking, which isn’t always a bad thing.
You know one of the things that I like about the First Quarter and the early part of the Second Quarter is that Easter and the season of Lent always fall within its timeframe. For some, the season of Lent is a period of preparation. People go out and stuff eggs and buy candy. Others start spring training for marathons or baseball. Others will change habits by giving up sweets, coffee, or cigarettes. Some even fast from meat on Fridays. The common thing in all of this is that people are preparing for something, whether it is a Jaycee project, a community project, or if they’re preparing for a more personal change.
Change can be tough and quite often it takes more than yourself in order to truly implement it. But ever since joining the Jaycees, I have come to believe that alone we can do very little. When given the chance to swear in a new member to the Jaycees, I don’t use the “official version” of our membership oath. I use a version that I think is attributed to Edward Everett Hale. It starts: “I am only one but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something … I have changed my point of view on this because prior to joining the Jaycees I always tried to be self-sufficient
That brings us to today’s song – I Alone by Live. The lyrics of today’s song are based on the story of Jesus while he and his disciples were at sea. You can find the full story in the Gospel of Luke 8:22-25. Live’s take on the story isn’t one about a miracle or even about Jesus. They’ve said in interviews that the song is about their journey to find a deeper truth that is not based on what they’ve been told to believe but on what they’ve discovered on their own. So, for your listening pleasure, here is I Alone:
Lyrics by Ed Kowalczyk; Music by Live
It’s easier not to be wise
and measure these things by your brains
I sank into Eden with you
alone in the church by and by
I’ll read to you here, save your eyes
you’ll need them, your boat is at sea
your anchor is up, you’ve been swept away
and the greatest of teachers won’t hesitate
to leave you there, by yourself, chained to fate
(Chorus) I alone love you
I alone tempt you
I alone love you
fear is not the end of this!
It’s easier not to be great
and measure these things by your eyes
we long to be here by his resolve
alone in the church by and by
to cradle the baby in space
and leave you there by yourself chained to fate
Oh, now, we took it back too far,
only love can save us now,
all these riddles that you burn
all come runnin’ back to you,
all these rhythms that you hide
only love can save us now,
all these riddles that you burn yeah, yeah, yeah
Live’s song tells us that it might seem easier at times to do things by ourselves, to measure things with our own brains and see things with our own eyes. I can understand that logic. However, there are many things in this world that require more than one point of view. There are times where we need to have the help of others in order to see what the truth is.
Fr. Ken’s homily on Easter reminded me that “Alone we can do nothing.” Those are words that I used to shy away from. I used to (and still do sometimes) think of myself as someone who is relatively self-sufficient and pretty independent. I often don’t need help, unless I’m moving a large piece of furniture because no one would expect me to do that by myself.
Think back to the day that you joined the Jaycees. The moment you raised your hand, on that day – your life was joined to all the other Jaycees in your community, in the State of Michigan, and in the world. We all are joined to the power that has changed the world in positive ways. That power began on a cold January day back in 1920. We wouldn’t be here in Boyne today if Henry Giessenbier wasn’t there in St. Louis.
So we need to be careful to not confuse our individual efforts with the overall power of our organization. We have to be careful that we don’t confuse our pride in wearing a Jaycee T-shirt, putting a Jaycee bumper sticker on our cars, or even wearing our Jaycee membership pins and name badges with the real power and the real change that this organization is doing to and with us. We cannot point to ourselves and say “See what I have done! See how many I’ve recruited! See how many Presidential Medallions I’ve won! See what a good Jaycee I am!” We should be saying “See what the Jaycees have done in me and in others for the improvement of our world!”
Wearing our badges with pride can just be a show and undertaking big projects and giving generously can be self centered ways to attract attention and awards, or they can be authentic actions that bring about personal change. Real transformation is hard work that leads from change on the outside to inner conversion. This is what the work of the Jaycees has always been about.
As we consider what we have accomplished during the first 12 weeks of the year and what we’ve done since then, have we experienced real change? Can we say that the power of the Jaycees is truly at work within us? Or is today the day we happily go back to our communities, full of celebrating the successes of the First Quarter, only to do things the way we’ve always done them before?
“I am one and I am only one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something with the help of the Michigan Jaycees.” I pray today that the true power of this statement is at work in all of us and that it will fill our lives, our chapters, and our communities because alone we can do nothing.