True Greatness Never Goes Viral
By Stephen Altrogge
On Sunday night, I had the great privilege of seeing my grandfather cross the finish line. Like so many pilgrims before him, he crossed the river of death and met the Savior on the other side. One moment he was sucking stale air through an oxygen mask; the next moment he was inhaling the glories of heaven.
By worldly standards, my grandpa wasn’t great. He didn’t have a single Facebook friend or Twitter follower. He never wrote a book, never spoke at a conference, never created a viral video. He didn’t have a popular blog. He never played a Super Bowl halftime show, never participated in the Olympics, never was featured in an inspirational segment on ESPN.
He was on television exactly twice in his entire life. The first time was on a program called “Bowling For Dollars”, in which my grandpa tried to win money by knocking down bowling pins. I think he won around $100. The second time was when he won the chance to broadcast part of a New York Mets game along with the regular Mets broadcasters. My grandpa made the mistake of repeatedly calling the New York Mets the “New York Giants”. Not his best moment.
Despite his lack of public fame, my grandpa was truly great in God’s eyes. That’s the funny thing about true, biblical greatness. Biblical greatness almost never goes viral, because biblical greatness almost always involves doing things no one ever sees.
No one saw my grandpa help his blind neighbor, Homer, pay his bills.
No one saw my grandpa give weekly Bible lessons at Saint Andrews Retirement Home.
No one saw my grandpa regularly take blood from Indiana to the blood bank in Johnstown (2.5-hour round trip).
No one saw my grandpa take Tom and Tony (older men on welfare) out to get groceries every week.
Every month my grandpa handpainted approximately thirty birthday cards, which he sent to friends and members of the church. Over the course of his life he painted somewhere around 6,000 cards. The most public recognition he ever received for this massive undertaking was an article in our local newspaper.
In our celebrity-infatuated culture, my grandpa was the quintessential anti-celebrity. He shopped at Wal-Mart. He once pulled out a rotten tooth with a pair of pliers. He kept score at local church softball games. He was a WWII vet who was most certainly not impressed with himself.
But my grandpa was most certainly great in God’s eyes. Shortly before he took his last breath, I read Matthew 25:20–21 to him:
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
I wish I could have heard the cheers when Jesus said those words to my grandpa.