I would like to tell you a story. In August of 2002, a friend of mine named John Fleckenstein was ordained into the priesthood. It seems like I have known John for years, since before high school in fact. Throughout all of that time, and despite the fact that he was a senior when I was a freshman, I have known that John would be a major and positive difference on our community.
And he has been.
During his freshman year at Western Michigan University, John came up with an idea that there should be a celebration of the connection between the WMU campus and the Kalamazoo community. “Let’s have the two get together before a football game and enjoy a good tailgate,” he said.
“Let’s call it CommUniverCity Night,” he said.
“We’ll have fireworks, the Broncos will win the game and for one night WMU and the City will be good neighbors,” he proclaimed.
That was about 20 years ago. John’s idea remains in effect today, has helped WMU break Mid American Conference attendance records, put the Broncos on ESPN and ESPN 2 for live broadcasts of the game, and is a tradition that grows stronger each year.
Still, John heard a calling – you must provide leadership to the students.
So during the rest of his time at WMU, John served as Student Body President and help reinvigorate interest in the student government and the services it provides to the entire campus. He was very successful, so successful that it brought him a new opportunity to serve the University.
After graduation, John started working for WMU in their athletic department, as the Corporate Development Director. As always, John was successful at this, building new relationships with area businesses and foundations. Still, after four years (and many rounds of beer and tequila shots with me), John heard a calling.
You must provide service to the Church, to the community, and to the people.
So, on Sunday, September 29, 202, I heard the first homily from my good friend Fr. John. Just before Mass started, he asked how I and my family was doing. I mentioned something along the lines of “We’re good. Still working to get ourselves in trouble, but we’re good.” This was a reference to my work in the Jaycees at the time. He replied, “Well, make sure you pay attention to the homily today, it might have something there for you.”
John’s homily was based on the following verse: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important that yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.”
John proceeded then to talk about the tendency of people to search for things that are better, to search for perfection. He told the story of a man who wanted to find a city where everything was perfect. So one day, he headed out to find this city. When night fell, he rested and to make sure that he continued on the right way, he placed his shoes so they were facing the direction that he wanted to lead.
During the night, three strangers came across the man and realized what he was attempting to do. So to play a trick on him, they turned his shoes around 180 degrees. Sure enough, when the man awoke and put on his shoes, he started out in the direction he was facing.
Soon he came across the city he was looking for, but it was a familiar city. He walked down a familiar street, knocked on a familiar door, and had dinner with familiar friends. He realized that what he was looking for was under his nose the entire time.
John wanted to remind me, and in a way remind us all, that this applies in our world today. If we empty ourselves in the service of others, the things will be better.
As Jaycees, we can make our communities the “perfect places” that we are searching for. All we have to do is pour ourselves into the best work of life – service to others.
So let us make sure that we finish our year strong. As we move through the 4th quarter, let’s continue to work hard, let’s reach our goals, and be the stuff that perfection is made of since it’s right here under our noses.