Our Greater Purpose

Frank Shankwitz had a very difficult childhood.  Abandoned by his mother when he was two years old, he lived with his grandparents and only saw his father on the weekends.  His mother returned when he was five and kidnapped him.  They eventually ended up in Arizona.  They lived in a camper with no plumbing or other facilities.  Frank began working when he was ten years old.  Frank was befriended by a Mexican man who became his surrogate father who cared for him.  The only thing his adopted father asked was: “Frank, when you can, I want you to give it back.”

After serving in the Air Force and a job at Motorola, Frank got a job with the Arizona Highway Patrol.  Frank was involved in an 85mph chase with a drunk driver when he was hit by another drunk driver.  He was declared dead at the scene.  An off-duty emergency room nurse brought him back to life after he had been dead for four minutes.  He had a brain injury, skull fracture, and broken bones.  He also had to undergo psychological counseling to be sure he was mentally capable of returning to duty.  He was told: “You realize you died, and God spared you for a reason, and now it’s up to you to find that reason why you were spared.”

Frank found his reason in a seven-year-old boy named Chris who had terminal leukemia.  Chris had a fascination for the highway patrol and was a huge fan of the TV show called CHIPS.  Frank befriended Chris and helped him become an honorary patrol officer.  While Chris had only months to live, Frank helped him realize his fondest wish.

Frank reflected on his experience with Chris.  He asked himself why other dying children couldn’t have an important wish come true.  That became the origin of the Make a Wish Foundation.

Today, the Make a Wish Foundation is worldwide.  It grants a child’s wish on average of every 28 minutes.

Frank’s story is a great example of how one person can make a difference.  Frank was the catalyst for the Make a Wish Foundation.  It was his vision that made it happen.

Making a difference may not always be as impactful as what Frank has been able to achieve.  But simple acts of kindness can make a difference.  Frank could have led a life of bitterness given his background, but he chose to go a different direction.  His near-death experience certainly had an impact on him.  Making a difference doesn’t have to be triggered by a dramatic event in our lives.  We just need to be alert to how we can make life better for others.

Just imagine how our society would be different today if each of us thought of our purpose in life as making a difference? Just imagine the many ways we can make a difference? Just imagine the collective impact of each of us making a difference in the lives of others?

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“It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” – Tom Brokaw (TV journalist and broadcaster)

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