“Everything in her working life is organized around the illness,” wrote Wilt Hylton a week before Christmas in a New York Times magazine piece about Laura Hillenbrand.
His piece – “The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand” – was a play off Hillenbrand’s book, “Unbroken.”
By this point, most folk have some awareness about “Unbroken.” It has gotten well-deserved media attention. It has been on the New York Times best-seller list for almost four years.
It’s the story about the remarkable life of Louie Zamperini – world record distant runner and prisoner of war.
“Unbroken” is also the title of Angelina Jolie’s new movie released on Christmas day with much acclaim in the United States and some criticism in Japan.
Wanting to sanitize Japan’s history of turning Allied POWs into slaves and Asia women into “comfort women” for its solders, right-wing nationalists have called for a movie boycott.
Breaking the will of the history deniers is probably as impossible as it was to break Zamperini’s will. His story is now well-known. It needs to be widely known.
Hillenbrand’s story is not so well-known but needs to be. She, too, is unbreakable.
Largely unknown is that she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. The disease keeps her confined to her home – often bedridden and sometimes unable to read.
She never actually met Zamperini, although they spoke often over the phone. She never visited the places about which she wrote so descriptively. She never went to libraries to read decades-old newspapers about World War II and Zamperini’s life. She never promoted her book at festivals and bookstore readings.
That all makes her storytelling skills more impressive and the success of her book even more remarkable.
“Everything in her working life is organized around the illness,” Hylton observed.
At the beginning of a new year, the right question for EthicsDaily.com readers to ask themselves is – What are our lives organized around?
Martin Luther King’s life was organized around a gospel hymn.
His favorite hymn was “If I Can Help Somebody, My Living Will Not Be In Vain.” The hymn was part of his sermon, “The Drum Major,” in which he imagined his own funeral.
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy tell him not to talk too long,” preached King in February 1968, only a few months before he was assassinated in April.
King preached, “I won’t have any money to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say.”
Then he cited the gospel hymn: ‘If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a well song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain. If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, if I can bring salvation to a world once wrought, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then my living will not be in vain.'”
King’s life was organized around helping others.
What is your life organized around?
What ought your life be organized around in 2015? Submitting to the will of God? Submitting to the will of God in order to help others?
Let us renew this day, at the start of a new year, a covenant to organize our lives around the will of God in order to help others.
In the words of John Wesley, let us covenant: “I am no longer my own but thine. Put me to what thou wilt … Put me to doing … Let me be employed by thee … I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal … And now, O glorious and blessed God … thou art mine, and I am thine.”
A covenant of renewal for those seeking to have an unbreakable commitment to the common good in 2015.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.