Last Sunday night Andy Rooney delivered his 1,097th and final commentary on “60 Minutes,” after 33 years on the air. Last summer Larry King signed off CNN after 25 years and an estimated 50,000 interviews. Oprah also ended her 25-year reign as TV’s #1 talk show host. And now Regis Philbin, who holds the Guinness world record for most logged hours on TV (16,343 hours as of 2009), is wrapping up his 28 years as a TV talk show host.
The rush by friends and colleagues to heap praise and tributes on the TV icons has bordered on overkill. But it reflects a deep desire most of us share. We want to know all the long hours and stress and sacrifice were worth it. We want to know our lives mattered to someone and our contribution will be missed.
As a life coach, everyday I see the lengths to which people go to achieve that end. I don’t judge them because, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve done a few crazy things in my life hoping to make my life memorable.
During my early years as a reporter working for a Chicago network radio affiliate, there was heavy competition between media outlets to “break” a story first or secure an “exclusive.” Around that time, Puerto Rican separatists who called themselves the F.A.L.N. (“Armed Forces of National Liberation”) bombed several local buildings as a political statement in their fight to win independence for Puerto Rico. It was long before Al Qaeda came on the scene and the bombings were nothing of the magnitude of the World Trade Center bombing, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.
One day two of the group’s minor players were arrested when stopped for a routine traffic violation. They were taken to the Criminal Court Building for arraignment and one of my sources called to tip me off they were in custody. He offered to get me into their cell for an interview. I was salivating at the thought of my first “exclusive” story.
The man everybody really wanted to interview was the group’s leader, Oscar Lopez Rivera. So, after a disappointing and not-that-groundbreaking interview with the two lower-echelon terrorists, I handed them my business card, wrote my home phone number on the back, and told them I would be willing to meet with Rivera anytime for an interview, if he was interested.
When I got back to the newsroom I rushed in to tell the news director about the interview and my offer to meet with Rivera.
“You did what?” he yelled, incredulous. “You gave your home phone number to a terrorist? I should fire you on the spot!”
Fortunately for me, Rivera wasn’t the least bit interested in an interview with me or anyone else. What was I thinking? I was thinking the interview would earn me high regard as a serious journalist. My words would matter.
Ironically, Jesus has never been all that interested in focusing on the best and the brightest in the human gene pool to get His work done on earth. Look who He picked as His 12 disciples! I used to read the gospels and think, “Who are these people? Where are their credentials? Jesus picked these guys to help change the world? Seriously?”
Then I stumbled onto Acts 4 where Peter and John, ignited by the Holy Spirit, appeared before the Sanhedrin, Israel’s Supreme Court. Luke, the author of Acts, describes the crowd as totally captivated by these less-than-impressive disciples.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
No Ivy League education, no flashy resumes, no slick presentation training. What everyone noticed was they had been with Jesus. It had so changed them, people hung on their every word. They were onto something and others wanted it.
You may never be an Andy or Regis or Larry or Oprah. You may have no unwieldy public persona to live up to, no ego to curtail and there may never be a long line of celebrities lauding your BIG IMPORTANT LIFE. That’s okay. Show them you’re on to something. Show them you’ve been with Jesus. They’ll never forget you.