Story 9

A Lesson in Selflessness

Illustration by Vince “Pixar” Palko at AdToons

The first I heard of F3 was from a coworker who told me a story about how he went on a “ruck” (I had no idea what this meant at the time) which began Saturday morning around 3 AM and continuing through the night into the morning. I couldn’t fathom wanting to get up that early on a Saturday for a workout – especially not for that length of time. It seemed unreasonable to me that you would waste a Friday night and Saturday morning for this. My idea of a perfect Friday night was coming home from work and cracking open a few beers while I relaxed on the couch with the family, so I told myself.

Looking back, after experiencing F3, I now realize my idea of a perfect Friday night was a far cry different than the scenario I described above. In reality, what I was doing over and over on Friday night was coming home from work, cracking open beer after beer after beer (usually until I switched to a liquor drink or two before bed) while I sat on my ass and watched the TV or scrolled through my phone while my family was in the same room.

It’s funny how your mind can portray a scenario in your head in a way that allows you to view your behavior as acceptable. I had somehow morphed my actions into something that, in my mind, I could tolerate; something that actually seemed respectable. My behavior was in fact not respectable, and moreover, in no way even acceptable. I now have a new perception of who I am as a man and what I want to be to my family. I’ve traded in drinks until after midnight on Friday nights in exchange for getting up before 5 AM on Saturdays to join these rucks which include physical exercise and uplifting conversation.

Since regularly participating in the events of F3, I’ve made a significant change to this area of my life as well as others. I used to be so focused on myself that I legitimately did not hear my wife speaking to me as I concentrated on my own thoughts. I’ve traded this mindset in for one that actively engages my wife on how I can show her how much I love her. Lately, I’ve seen a complete 180 degree shift in the strength of our marriage, and we now spend our time together enjoying each other’s company rather than getting into arguments. 

Apart from the improvement in my effort to be present in my marriage and in my family, the biggest change I’ve experienced since joining F3 has been a renewed interest in my faith. I once was heavily involved in my church community and actively participated in regular prayer, devotion, and reflection on readings from the Bible. All of these things underwent an abrupt extinction in my life on July 15, 2006 when my mother passed away from cancer. She was the foundation for my faith and the one responsible for giving me the mindset of selflessness. It didn’t matter what was going on in her life if someone needed her, she would be there. 

I remember one experience as a 17-year-old in high school that still sticks with me today. In that memory, I had to carry her from our van to the house. She was in her 5th and final year battling the cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments to reduce the size of a second mass that returned and was recently detected. As a result of the chemotherapy, her body had grown weak, and at one point, unable to support her weight, she fell and cracked her hip and dislocated a disc in her lower back pinching a nerve. Also as a result of the chemo, she was unable to undergo surgery which is why I had to carry her into the house. As I was carrying her in my arms to the door, I remember thinking my physical strength is what she relies on to get through her day. If I slip and fall, if I trip, if I falter in any way, I will literally and figuratively let her down. It was at this moment, when I was thinking about how helpless and  hopeless she must feel, that she looked up at me and asked if we could go to her friend’s house later in the afternoon. She further explained that her friend was having a hard time with a struggle in her marriage and that she wanted to go over to help her deal with it over a conversation and provide support. 

The gravity of this statement has not weighed on me before in the same way as I write the words now on this page. She was in her final year battling cancer. She was unable to walk and in constant pain with a pinched nerve in her back. She had every right in the world to focus on herself and yet, her main focus was helping and supporting her friend. I will never have the chance to ask her how she had so much courage to focus on others at a time like this, but I will strive to be more like this every day. F3 has renewed my awareness of this mindset that has been rooted so deeply in my past and waiting to emerge after being buried for so long. F3 has been the shovel flag that dug up the seed that was planted all those years ago. It will also be the vehicle by which it is carried out and spread in the community. 

There is not a doubt in my mind that we, as like-minded individuals, can have a truly awesome impact on our communities. The selfless mindset is one that I will continue to develop and share with others and do good for those around me. I know she would be proud.

Jake “Jennay” Wittmer

Check out other #Miracle stories.

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