Column by Jonathan Nagy
Many people have never heard of Don LaFontaine, but almost everyone has heard his voice. Over his career, LaFontaine recorded over 5,000 movie trailers, commercials, and video game promos. He became identified with the line, “In a world…” to the point of the phrase almost becoming cliché. Those words were often followed by the introduction of a scenario or problem, followed by the mention of the hero or solution to that problem. The tone of his voice was always serious and relayed a sense of suspense. With that being said, let me talk about a scenario in the world today and use his catch phrase as the teaser.
In a world where problems seem to be around every corner and turmoil has engulfed the planet, a solution presents itself, if only people would recognize it. A seemingly over-simple solution to the complexities of life is right in front of everyone, yet often overlooked. This day, and every day, the chaos of the world could be calmed if only people would adopt this idea into their lives.
What could that idea be? What could save the world? It is a simple word, a simple idea, a simple concept.
Every major religion of the world speaks about the importance of being humble. Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam all mention humbleness in their writings and teachings. The dictionary provides four definitions of humble:
1. Not proud or arrogant; modest
2. Having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience, etc.
3. Low in rank, importance, status, quality, lowly
4. Courteously respectful
While numbers one and four are spot on, I am not particularly fond of numbers two and three. In my opinion, humbleness is anything but insignificant, inferior, subservient or low in rank, importance, or quality. In fact, it is just the opposite of those words!
Some of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church have written about the importance of humility, including St. Bernard, St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas once wrote that, “Humility is the mark of a genuine disciple.” But what does it truly mean to be humble and a genuine disciple? In the Christian sense, it means to have a sense of subordination to God in Christ. God is in charge. We are not. He sent his son to do his will on earth and to provide us with a path to eternal life. Christ gave us the ultimate example of dying on the cross for our sins. He never had to do that. In fact, God never had to humble himself to become flesh. He did it for us. So why is it so hard to humble ourselves to each other?
I remember my maternal grandparents as being the most generous and humble people I have ever known. They did not live outside of their means and would do anything for anyone without any thought of reward. I recall one time when I was about twelve, I went to the grocery store with them. There was a man outside begging. My grandmother walked into the grocery store, bought a sizeable gift card, walked out, and handed it to the man. I remember asking her in the car, “Gram, why did you do that? Aren’t you afraid he is going to waste it?” She said, “No, it is the right thing to do. If someone is in need, it is our duty to help them. That is what God wants.”
That moment will always stand out in my mind as a life-changing event. My grandparents never spoke of that again, but it has stuck with me for the better part of a quarter century. This was just one example of the many good deeds that I witnessed them do for others over the years, and not once did they ever expect recognition or reward for anything they did. They did it all because of their faith in Christ Jesus. They both truly were genuine disciples and great role models for me.
While most people in the world will never hear of Bill and Dorothy Cordwell, they meant the world to me, my family, and anyone who did have the privilege of having their lives touched by these remarkable individuals. My grandmother returned home to Heaven seventeen years ago and my grandfather joined her nearly three years ago, and I still think of them daily. They were the type of people I wish everyone had in their lives, true examples of what it means to be a servant of Christ. I have never met a single person that had an unkind word about either of them. One of their favorite hymns was How Great Thou Art. The final verse of that hymn describes their lives perfectly: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in HUMBLE adoration, and there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!” I am proud to be their grandson, and I hope to continue the work that they started on earth!
Many are familiar with Richard Gillard’s beautiful hymn, The Servant Song. The first verse reads “Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you; Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.” The rest of the verses speak of how we are all on this path together in life, assisting one another on our journey. Many times we must humble ourselves to one another. I dream about and pray often for a world where we live in humble harmony, willing to serve one another.
In no less than a dozen locations that I see in my daily life, I posted my favorite quote. My students, family, friends, and anyone who reads my articles knows this phrase from Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi was a man who was humble in his approach to others but larger than life in his actions. If we want others to show humility and civility, we must be the ones to start it.
2020 has been a year of unrest, chaos, and disunity. It hurts my heart and my soul to see how people treat each other. But yet, there are acts of goodness and humbleness being done on a daily basis. The best random acts of kindness are completed humbly without knowledge of the source. Those acts allow everyone to have faith that there still is good in this world, even when it is hard to find. When we humble ourselves to do the will of God, we become like him.
This is the challenge I present to everyone this month. Humble yourself to one another as Jesus did to us. The savior of the world dined with tax collectors, was friends with prostitutes and sinners, washed the feet of those unworthy, and died for many who refuse to acknowledge his divinity. He did all of those things for the love of humanity and to do the will of the Father. Because of his sacrifice and lead, we should all follow his command that, “What you do for the least of my people, you do for me.”
In a world where you can be anything, be humble.
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Dean of Students and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.