As I explored the power of real, all-in hope to create change, I discovered the role it had played in my own life. I talk about this in my book Hope Realized as well as encourage people to “mine” their story for the ways in which hope has played a role in my free guide 5 Foundational Steps to Make a True Difference in Someone’s Life. Oftentimes, for good or for bad, it comes back to a person. One of those people in my life was Jim Belt, or as I called him, Granddad. As I write this, my family is preparing to celebrate the very full 98 years of life he lived following his passing earlier this week. This has reminded me of the hope he has brought into my life and what we can learn from as we seek to live meaningful lives.
Granddad was larger than life in many ways. He lived a full life–maybe enough for 3 or 4 lives by any normal measure. He was a Marine, an All-American soccer player among other sports accomplishments, a beloved physical education teacher, a Mr. Softy ice cream truck operator, an advocate for the mentally disabled including his own son Bobby, a painter, a pool manager, and so much more. More importantly, he was father, husband, friend, grandfather, and great grandfather to people who loved him dearly, even if he drove them crazy sometimes. Reflecting on the many roles he has played and the many stories I have been told, one common theme sticks out to me: he saw the God-given potential in people, even when they didn’t see it in themselves. To say it another way, he brought hope to many people, including me.
I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Granddad when I was a kid. We did a lot things together, but more often than not it revolved around sports. As an athlete and former physical education teacher, he saw the value in athletics and wanted to pass that along to me, his grandson. We played many sports together from soccer to baseball to golf to tennis to basketball, just to name a few. Always the competitor and teacher, he would push me to give it my all and refused to just let me win. In fact, he told me many times that I would finally be able to beat him in basketball when he was 90. I never did beat him, and he was smart enough to stop playing me before he was 90. In the end, his goal was always the same: to help me be the best that I could be.
When I was an awkward middle school kid, I was lacking in self-confidence. Despite my lack of self-confidence, my grandfather believed in me. In almost every sport I played, Granddad told me, “if you keep at it, you could be a pro one day.” Looking back now, I am not sure I would have had the same opinion of my athletic potential, but my grandfather was unwilling to give up on me. He had hope for my life and my God-given potential. I never did become a professional athlete, but the words of hope my grandfather spoke into my life helped to shape the person I am today. I see my life through the lens of hope in part because of Granddad and others who believed in me and decided I was worth their investment. I am incredibly thankful for the hope Granddad helped to foster in me, and I know many others would say the same.
What can we learn from the life of Jim Belt and the role in played in my life and the lives of so many others? Many things, but one sticks out to me more than the others: we have an incredible opportunity to make an impact by bringing hope to others. In a world that struggles with hopelessness, we can be beacons of hope, seeing the God-given potential of the people in our lives. I am a testimony of the power this can have in the life of another person. In fact, it has helped to shape the way I see others and my passion for helping people reach their God-given potential.
Maybe you find yourself reading this and thinking, “sounds great, James, but I could use some hope myself.” Well, the great news is, I have found that bringing hope to others produces more hope in me. Our willingness to believe in the God-given potential of another helps us to rediscover the God-given potential that lives inside of us. I never asked my grandfather, but I would imagine he would have said the same.
Jim Belt, my Granddad, lived a full life that was meaningful not just because of what he did but also because of the hope he inspired in so many others. I can’t think of a better legacy. This same opportunity exists for each of us. We can be beacons of hope and in-turn become more hope-filled ourselves.
Want to find more hope and meaning? Take a page out of Jim Belt’s book and start bringing hope to others.
If you would like pick up Hope Realized or the free guide mentioned above, click here for more information.