Every year as the spring semester of college drew to a close, the chancellor would address the student body with the usual end-of-year address: “Don’t mess up, so you can come back next semester.” This year, however, was different. This time, my peers and I heard a message that, to this day, I have not forgotten. It was titled “Because of You”.
In this lecture, we were told tales about some sitting in the audience who were here at college specifically because of another person’s example—someone who had been in these same seats before. He told tales of how our example—whether we went to summer camp to serve as counselors, work on an activity or went home to work for the summer—could be just the thing that makes someone else want to come to this character-building institute.
He kept saying that someone might make a better life choice because of our actions—someone’s life changed because of you. Isn’t that amazing? You can be that person, a person who can make an impact on someone else’s life to the point that they see your example and want to change.
At the time though, it sounded intimidating. Could my example really impact someone else’s decision-making process?
You too can be that person for someone else. Because of you, someone may want to find out more about your beliefs. Because of you, someone may want to come to summer camp. Because of you, someone may want to come to Herbert W. Armstrong College. Because of you, someone may make a life-changing decision for the better. Because of you, someone may ultimately be drawn to the truth and make a lifelong commitment to God.
After this final lecture, we all went our separate ways for the summer. The phrase “because of you” continued to reverberate in my head. What an eventful summer this would turn out to be.
This particular summer, I was involved in filming an entertainment video for two weeks after college graduation. Because I had this prior commitment, I was not accepted to go to summer camp. I was devastated, and called the camp director every other day asking if there was any way I could serve at summer camp. For me, summer wouldn’t be summer without camp. You see, summer camp changed my life. I was actually one of the recipients of someone else’s example, and I had to give back. Sure, selfishly it was a lot of fun, but ever present in my mind was where I would have been were it not for my summer camp experience as a young teen.
Every time I asked if I could go to summer camp, the answer was no. But finally, after much persistence, I was told if I could pay my own way to the closest airport near the camp, then they would pick me up and put me to work. Awesome! I was one step closer to achieving my summer dreams. The only catch was that I would most likely not be paid for working all summer.
I knew God would work it all out, so I made the appropriate arrangements and soon arrived at the camp. Per usual, I got to serve in my favorite activity: canoeing. This activity more than any other, and the example I saw from the staff members when I was a camper, had changed my life forever.
On one particular canoeing trip, I was leading a group of eight girls and one female staff assistant through parts of the bwca (Boundary Waters Canoe Area). This was a lot of responsibility for a young person, but I was confident in myself back then and never gave a second thought to any dangers. I was the leader, the protector, the big man on campus. I was in my element. What guy wouldn’t want nine young ladies looking to him for protection from bears and other predators? However, this particular night, I faced a new and different threat.
Around the campfire, the girls were all talking about the things they were missing back at the main camp. There were warm soft beds, very few mosquitoes by comparison, and the food was a little more salubrious. One female camper lamented the fact that she so missed her boyfriend at home, and that she couldn’t wait for camp to be over so she could get back into his arms. He gave her gifts and presents all the time in exchange for some special attention.
This seemed really odd to me since she was so young; we had all been raised to understand the dangers of teenage dating and to avoid having a girlfriend or boyfriend. Having girlfriends or boyfriends who expect favors is a recipe for disaster that could only end in shipwrecking your future as someone else’s wife or husband. I told the girls my feelings on this subject, and they all agreed.
I was always the last one to go to bed. I stayed awake until the last camper had gone to bed, and I put out the campfire. Just prior to extinguishing the fire, the young girl who missed her boyfriend came out of the tent and over to the fire with me; she offered me a massage. Canoeing all day can make for some very sore muscles—and what young man wouldn’t want a young girl fawning all over him? It took all the courage I could muster, but I rejected the proposal and sent her back to the tent. How could she or any of her peers respect anything I had said around the fire if I set the wrong example?
Jumping forward in the story; summer camp was over, and I was back at college getting ready to register for the fall semester. I often received letters from campers thanking me for their canoeing experience, but one letter in particular really stands out in my memory. It was a letter from this young girl who was so attached to her boyfriend. She said, “Thanks to you, I finally said no to my boyfriend.” I was thrilled with this letter. Here was proof that if you stand up for God’s standards and His law, he will provide you the courage to stand up against the pulls of peer pressure.
During the registration process, we had to visit with our financial adviser to ensure we had enough funds to register. Most other students were paid for their summer jobs, but I volunteered and would probably not have enough money to be in college the next semester.
This is where I learned another powerful lesson about how God will bless you when you follow his law and trust in Him. During my meeting with my financial adviser, it became apparent that I would be short of funds. The adviser asked me how I had spent my summer and why I hadn’t earned any money for my effort. I relayed to him my story and finished with the quote from this young girl’s letter: “I finally said no to my boyfriend.” How much is that worth? A hundred dollars? A thousand dollars? It really is priceless, but that quote wasn’t going to keep me in college. I needed $500—cold, hard cash—and I only had about an hour to find it before I had to register.
I was discouraged. Where would I find $500 on such short notice? I proceeded to lunch and stopped by my campus mailbox. Inside was an envelope from someone I knew before I went to college. They had never written to me before and have never written to me since. Nonetheless, I had this curious letter—and inside was a check for $500!
I couldn’t believe it. I raced—no, floated—over to the registrar’s office and was able to continue with my college education.
In my wildest dreams, I never realized how that final address from our chancellor would impact my life. That lecture—“Because of You”—really did work. Not only did my example help someone else, I was also blessed because of it.
As you go through your life, you may think you are too young or too inexperienced to set a proper example. You would be wrong. The next time you have a choice to make, whether to make the right choice or slip into the easy chair of life, remember the lesson from the chancellor’s lecture. Who knows, one day, someone may say they made the right choice “because of you!”