Jim Weber, who welcomed the Beems to a new church home more than 15 years ago, died on Aug. 22.
As I reflected on the warm welcome he and Dorothy, who preceded him in death, extended our family, it became clear what a positive influence they were.
When Kate and I first visited our congregation, we had a 2-year-old son and an infant daughter. Getting to church on time and sitting through an entire service were significant undertakings.
On our first Sunday, we slipped quietly into the back corner of the sanctuary. After the service – which we both left several times to change dirty diapers – the pleasant elderly couple behind us said what a nice family we had.
It was Jim and Dorothy Weber. Their kind words were considerate and reassuring.
We continued sitting in front of the Webers in the years that followed and got to know them well. They laughed with and encouraged our kids and were always supportive when their age-appropriate behavior might have discouraged others. They even smiled at and encouraged Joe, our budding 3-year-old musician, who each Sunday stood in our pew with pencils in hand and conducted the choir as it sang in the front of the church.
John Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism, said something a long time ago that has bounced around in my mind in the days since Jim’s death: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Wesley’s maxim calls us to live lives of service that benefit people in the way Jim and Dorothy Weber impacted our family. And it brings to mind others who are following Wesley’s call to a life of philanthropy.
My parents, Terry and Betty Snapp, top the list. Mom dedicated nearly all her working years to Sunshine Center, a school for children with special needs that she co-founded, and continues giving to everybody with whom she interacts. My dad spent his career helping nonprofit organizations raise money for those they serve, and in retirement he’s helped start a weekly Neighborhood Meal at Stone Church, which now serves supper to more than 200 people each Wednesday and attracts volunteers from local service clubs, school groups and churches.
It also reminds me of Joe Colaizzi, the founder and executive director of Kansas City Rescue Mission at 1520 Cherry St. in Kansas City. Joe has dedicated himself to helping the homeless improve and find a deeper purpose for their lives.
Carl Mesle, who was the Stone Church pastor when I was a kid, became my neighbor when Kate and I purchased our home and put down roots in the McCoy Neighborhood. Carl’s life of service is widely known and remains a model for me.
And my wife, Kate Beem. Though few know it, Kate has served dozens of individuals and families through her involvement in our neighborhood kids’ lives, Girl Scouts, Bryant Elementary School, CASA and as a Licensed Master of Social Work.
What are you giving? Where? When? To whom?
Look for ways you can give to others. You’ll make a true and lasting difference in their lives.
Matt Beem is president and chief executive officer of Hartsook Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.