Leading with lollipops

In the aftermath of the car accident, I spent two seemingly endless weeks in the intensive care unit. At night, friends and family were kicked out at 10 PM, and I was left alone flat on my back to stare at the ceiling. I was frequently unable to sleep due to the fact that I had a neck brace endlessly agitating me, I was battling hallucinations, and I had no idea what was in store next. (Having a ventilator tube in my neck and unable to move anything below my shoulders may have added to some of the problem.) I desperately wished that I would just fall asleep and wake back up in my fraternity bedroom like I did the morning of November 20, 2009, as if this was all a dream.

However, the fearful, anxious, angst filled nights came to a halt with the arrival of a nurse’s aide named Ashley. Even though I could do nothing more than mouth words, she stayed by my side at night discussing sports with me, encouraging me with Bible verses, and praying over me. She even replaced the Jason Aldean country music CD that was lost with my totaled car.

Jason Aldean CD

It was not until two years later when I found her email address written on that CD that I was able to shoot her a thank you for her investment of time. However, even given the opportunity to contact her, I realized I would I never be able to fully relay how impactful and meaningful her investment in my life was. The funny thing about it is, I barely know a thing about that nurse’s aide regarding her life story or even remember what she looks like. Truth be told, she probably wasn’t even there as often as it had seemed since she more than likely only worked a few days week. Yet, I will never forget her for the rest of my life.

In this TED Talk, “Leading with Lollipops,” Drew Dudley tells a story that demonstrates how we often underestimate our own ability to change the course of someone else’s life:

I often wonder how I can emulate this concept in my own life for others. Sometimes, the fact that I am not currently able bodied and am so dependent on others for my every need evokes the lie that I cannot do much to help or impact the lives of those around me. However, I would bet that every single person has something that fogs their vision as to the immense difference they can make or have made in the life of another person. Going straight to the Bible reveals how little our worldly standards and assumed criteria have to do with the ability to make an impact. David had an affair, Jonah ran from God, Thomas was a doubter, Peter and John were uneducated, Paul was a murderer, and yet, God still used them to make a huge difference in the lives of others.

God used them. What's your excuse?

God used them. What’s your excuse?

While the goals behind beginning a blog were multifaceted, if one person finds encouragement, inspiration, or motivation from the way God has moved in my life over the past four years, then my weekly writing can be deemed a success. As Sister Mary Rose McGeady said, “There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.” (That’s right. I just quoted a nun.) While my physical dependence may feel like an obstacle at times, thanks to Ashley’s example and Dudley’s explanation in the video, I realize a big title, a flawless record, or even functioning arms and legs are not prerequisites for making a difference. From now on I want to notice, reach out, and express my gratitude for those seemingly insignificant acts of others that impact my life, while also remaining conscious that I am fully capable of doing the same for those around me.

  1. Tom Lipsey said:

    Another amazing expression of Truth! Thanks Ryan for impacting me and many others needing encouragement to keep reaching out and moving on.


  2. Mariah Acord said:

    I love how, even though I know a lot of your story, I will stop literally whatever I’m doing when the “flat on my back” email pops up on my phone. This is great, bring on more vulnerability its super encouraging!!


  3. Cindy Kuroff said:

    Ryan, loved your message this morning and the lollipop video!


  4. claudia said:

    ryan, deem yourself already a success because i think your blogs are having more impact on my life than any church ever did. i find myself really excited to read and learn each time i see a new post. in fact, i think it just might be my most fav thing to read!! your writing is extraordinary……and your wisdom unfathomable. Def making a big difference in my life. it is funny how you affect people and you really might not (probably not) even have a clue that you did!


  5. claudia said:

    Along the lines of your blog today is a quote i keep on my bulletin board that you may or not be familiair with. It’s from the book The Shack. “Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service; seen or unseen, God’s purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.” William Paul Young


  6. You have had a profound affect on my life and countless others. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to your Wednesday posts. Love and hugs, Judy


  7. You are making a huge impact. You have the right perspective. Keep sharing. Keep shining, my brother!


  8. Ryan, your blog posts are hugely encouraging. They seem to touch a cord every week. I have my own health problems I am trying to get through and your posts help me to keep it in perspective and not overwhelm me. Keep writing!


  9. Karen Meyer said:

    Your writing is definitely a success! You are truly making a difference.


  10. ryan your words are so eloquent, so uplifting. you have been in my thoughts for the past four years and will continue to be. it’s great hearing from you and i truly look forward to reading your posts!


  11. Ryan, you have a great deal of wisdom and inspiration to share. As I was nearing the end of your story, I felt/ sensed that the Holy Spirit was going to INCREASE your spiritual gift of prophecy. Scripture says, ‘eagerly seek spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, that you might encourage the body of Christ’. YES! I believe that this gift is going to grow exponentially in you so that you can fulfill your destiny. God doesn’t give us dreams / visions of things without giving us tools to make them happen and to be successful.

    So Holy Spirit, I ask that you would FLOOD Ryan’s quiet time with secrets from You… that He would be able to see into the supernatural realm and to offer SPECIFIC encouragement to a person not only to comfort them, but to build their faith in You!!! Thank You for equipping Ryan with a sure-fire method of communicating. Thank You for offering a ‘podium’ upon which to speak from the comfort of his home. We praise and thank You Lord, for this MIGHTY Man of God! Increase, increase, increase in prophetic gifting, I ask in Jesus’ name. AMEN

    Go for it! Seek it! It’s going to be a VERY good thing (IMHO). 🙂

    Keep up the great work, Ryan!!!


  12. Bob Buck said:

    Ryan, I talk about your amazing faith and courage all the time. No one can possibly know how many people, after hearing your story, decided they needed to find out where you got your strength. And in their search, they found Jesus. Ryan, you are helping people find the Savior! The video was about the importance of leadership, and everybody gets that. Your impact is having an eternal impact on more people than you will ever know. Love you, man!


  13. Matt Massey said:

    Great post. One of the best yet. Well done.


  14. Chris Burkart said:

    Ryan, thank you so much. Your post makes me smile and thank God for the opportunity to read and “know” a little more about you.
    Have a great week! 🙂


  15. Ryan – thanks for posting this…these stories!
    I called Judy this week from San Francisco to say that I was ready to speak to a group of 40+ coworkers the next day, and had picked up 60 of my favorite Sees adult lollipops to hand out in the middle of my 90 minutes on stage. As a “Design the Experience” guy, gracious hosting is an important element. People love ’em. It makes them (and me) smile. Plus, frankly it’s the 3 basic food groups: chocolate, sugar and caffeine! Just what you need to keep an audience attentive right after lunch (the reptile hour). Anyway, as soon as I told her she asked if I had read your blog! (I had not yet!) What a coincidence! When I was Student Body President I always kept a box of Tootsie Pops on my office desk at TUC… Or on the window sill of my almost-always open ground floor window. They were student lures… They Always make people smile. It’s hard to frown with a lollipop in your mouth! I brought back a couple chocolate Sees pops for you… Will drop them off. God Bless my friend. – Chris


  16. Joe Feldhaus said:

    Dear Ryan, You and your family are powerful beyond all measure to me and mine. I first knew your dad professionally and have grown to call him my friend. That friendship started in my mind when well after a year of working together on an intense project (which lasted at least a couple years) he told me about his family, you being a lead character. Your determination and willingness to take this life for what it is, God given, and one which comes with privilege and duty, and to learn how you greet that privilege and fulfill that duty is powerful beyond all measure. I think of you and your family often to remind me of my privilege and duty.
    Thanks for sharing all this with so many.


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