The Day That Defined My Life, Documented 40 Years Later
You know that today, if something happens, if anything happens, even if nothing happens someone will take a picture of it. That wasn’t the case 40 years ago.
An old friend just sent me this photo he took in 1976. My father had recruited my help on a service project. We went with hundreds of other people, including my friend (then youth leader) Kraig Clawson who snapped a few photos. I have frequently and honestly described the experience as the defining event of my life. I’d never even dreamed that a photo existed from that day, and out of the blue it appeared today.
Devin Thorpe, Phil Thorpe, courtesy of Kraig Clawson
You see, Rexburg, Idaho was flooded by the failure of the Teton Dam the first time the reservoir was filled; about 80 percent of the structures in Rexburg were damaged or destroyed by the flood. All summer long, people from around the Western US loaded into buses to help the people of Rexburg dig the much and mud out of basements.
When my father came to me at the end of the summer and invited me to join him on the trip, I was eager to go. It sounded like an adventure.
We loaded on buses about 2:00 AM, arrived in Rexburg around dawn and worked all day until dark. We got back on the buses then and went home.
As you can see in the photo, given my size and age, I had trouble lifting the empty shovel. I probably didn’t do much good that day, but I sure felt like I had done some good.
The next day, I promised myself that I would never miss an opportunity to serve others again.
Of course, I have missed plenty of opportunities to serve over the years, but when I got fired from the best job I’d ever had back in 2011, I channeled that enthusiasm for service and went to China for a year to launch a new career focused on serving others.
I still don’t do all the good I should, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I take to help others. Those experiences bless my life more than I bless others.
Today, I’m especially grateful for Kraig’s taking this photos nearly 40 years ago and sending it to me today.
P.S. You can see me tell this story (without the photo) here:
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