Guest author: Harla Adams, CEO, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership.
September 4, 2011 my brother, Brent Leisure, lost his home and all his belongings in the Bastrop, Texas wildfires. The Bastrop fire encompassed approximately 34,000 acres and burned 96% or 6,240 acres of Bastrop State Park. Over 1,600 homes were lost, which makes this the most destructive fire in US history in terms of homes lost in one fire event. Over 6,000 people were estimated to be without a home during and immediately following the fire.
Through all the devastation and heartache, we saw firsthand, time after time the generosity and love extended to those who were affected, specifically my brother and his family. People in general want to help during difficult times. I would like to share the story of a very special little girl, who gave from her heart and her pocketbook.
My brother is the director of Texas State Parks and this true story is about Teresa Justice, the 6 year old daughter of Brenda and John Justice. Brenda is the Superintendent of Goliad State Park in Texas.
Brenda was telling her husband that my brother Brent and his family had lost their home and everything they owned in the fire. What they did not know was that Teresa, their daughter, was listening, in the background, to the details.
Now, fast forward to the next day…
Teresa came running in from dance class and scurried into their home office to get a handful of computer paper. Her mom stopped her and asked her to put the paper back, but Teresa said, “but mom, I need to write a letter to your friend, Mr. Leisure.” So Brenda allowed Teresa to use the paper. Teresa continued to draw a picture and write a letter to Brent.
When Teresa finished the picture, she ran into the room where her dad was sitting and asked for the money he owed her from picking up sticks in the park the weekend before (something Teresa does on a regular basis). Dad told Teresa he would get it to her and she said, “no, I need it now.” When dad probed a little further and asked why she needed it now, Teresa responded, “I need the $3.00 you owe me to send to Mr. Leisure so he can build another house.”
You can imagine the rest of the story…. Teresa’s dad gave her the $3.00. She put the letter and the money in an envelope and asked her mom to mail it to Brent. Her mother of course, did just that, but before she mailed the letter she asked Teresa the following question: “Teresa, why did you write in your letter to Mr. Leisure that you love him… you don’t even know him?” Teresa’s response was, “because I do love him.”
In a conversation with Teresa several weeks ago, we asked her where she learned to be so kind. Teresa responded, (with the help of her mom) “we learned at school that you should always try and fill people up with good things… like filling a glass with milk from a pitcher.” Her parents have also been a huge influence by having her in Sunday School every Sunday and teaching the principals of kindness at home. This foundation will serve Teresa well throughout her entire life.
Teresa’s generosity and love for mankind is pure and genuine. What a wonderful example for all of us, not just during the Christmas season, but 365 days a year!
We would all do well to follow Teresa’s example… action speaks so much louder than words. We should give generously, not only financially, but from our hearts… showing and giving the priceless love we were intended to show to others.
I challenge you today to reach out and genuinely give from your heart to those who are in need or to those could use a touch of encouragement. Small acts of kindness go a long way. I can assure you, the generosity and love Teresa extended to my brother will NEVER be forgotten!
Thank you, Teresa for being such a wonderful role model. You demonstrate great wisdom at a young age. Continue to Give Generously… Give Sincerely… Give Always… and your life we be a spectacular success!