Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave NE, Rockford
“We do not want you to become lazy, but to be like those who believe and are patient, and so receive what God has promised.” – Hebrews 6:12, Good News Translation
I don’t know if this line from the movie As Good As It Gets is a classic now or merely a cliché, but it still works, as far as I’m concerned, and it still reminds me of what a good feeling it evokes when the cranky, bigoted Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson, says to Helen Hunt’s Carol Connelly, “You make me want to be a better man.”
The moment represents the beginning of a significant life change for Melvin. Until this point, he has been self-absorbed and recalcitrant; the sort of person others dread seeing come their way.
Carol has a full plate of challenges. She is a single mother struggling to make ends meet on a waitress’s income with worries for her son’s poor health. Melvin and Carol navigate and negotiate the development of a relationship that begins with him as a customer at her table until, yada, yada, yada, he delivers his famous line.
I am grateful that there are people to whom I can say, “You make me want to be a better man.” It wasn’t anything like a romantic comedy, but Stuart Ray, the manager of the Burger King where I worked when I was in college, is one who comes to mind. Laurie Haller, a superintendent in the governance system of the United Methodist denomination of which I am a part, is another. And Claire Guisfredi, the current director of North Kent Community Services, on whose board I am privileged to have a seat, is my most recent experience of such motivating leadership.
The verse of the Bible that opens this article describes characteristics that all three of them share. They are clear about their expectations just as the author of Hebrews is. They communicate confidence and trust in the people with whom they’re working; in other words, they believe. And their spiritual and emotional maturity enables them patiently to overcome obstacles and disappointments with grace and creative problem-solving.
There is a temptation now to say, “Let’s all strive to be people who similarly inspire others.” But I don’t know how a person would will him or herself into being that kind of an encouraging role model. It’s not so much a choice as a spark of the divine, struck by God, that is glowing in them.
So I’ll simply say, “Let’s thank God for the people who make us want to be better men and women, and let’s act on that impulse.”