To make a difference

Nothing inspires me most than seeing a good person die. I mean not that they die, of course. I wish they would live longer; I wish they’d never die. But to see a life marked by love, wisdom and self-giving end well – oh my, pass me the tissue.

Last week one of my favorite people on earth passed away. Edésio, my wife’s grandpa, was 88. He was born in a deprived region of Brazil. Actually, he was the first child in the family to survive; 5 siblings did not survive before him. Seeing child after child die, his father taught himself basic medicine to discover the causes of ill health … and Edésio, the sixth-born, became their oldest child.


The circumstances of his birth touched Edésio so deeply that he dedicated his life to fight poverty through education. He became the fun Math teacher who used books like The Abracadabra of Math to give kids a love of learning. But his greatest legacy was to build several schools over the years in his city to give kids a quality education and help them overcome poverty. Many of them managed to attend university and who knows how their lives are different now.

Edésio lived in a tiny apartment and gave something like 80% of his income to the poor and Christian missions. Asking him once for funds for a project, I was struck by how such a generous and sophisticated philanthropist could emerge from such a humble background. Boy, he was sharp.

I miss him also for his jokes, for being the fun of the party, for playing with my kids. We had a great time in his and grandma Edna’s 50th anniversary.

His death makes me sad, yet, in a sense, also full of life. It inspires me to live not for comfort or personal success but to make an actual difference. It makes me want to build a legacy measured not in dollars, or real state, or trophies, but in changed lives.

Thousands of kids will receive a better education because of Edésio, even after his death. I’d love to glimpse what will eventually happen because of my efforts. We cannot glimpse the future. But we can strive in the present. We can make each day count. We can embody God’s love to the people around us – today.

So let’s get to work, folks.

(And if you want to read about one more inspiring death, nothing tops this one.)

René Breuel


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