Moving Mountains Together

Individually we can only do so much, but collectively we can move mountains. In this special episode John O’Leary joins us to share his remarkable story and how the “we” can make a difference.

Tell us your story.

I never told anyone the story until I was about 27 which is pretty remarkable because it physically scarred me for the rest of my life. I had to find creative ways to hide from a story that I viewed as being tragic and in time would recognize as being redemptive and beautiful. In a similar regard that’s the story we are living out now. Perhaps through the right lens this can be a turning point for us individually.

The story dates back to age 9. I see kids around me playing with fire and gasoline and if they can do it so can I. With my mom and dad at work on a Saturday morning I walk into their garage and walk over a 5 gallon can of gasoline, tried to pour a little bit of gasoline on a paper that was on fire. The can is so heavy I can’t pick it up so I set the flame on the concrete floor and I bear hug the container and slowly tip it. Before the liquid came out, the fumes came out, it races out of the can and creates this massive explosion that splits the can in 2 and launches a 9 year old boy 20 feet against the far side of the garage covering my clothes in gasoline, igniting my body then immediately igniting the garage in a fiery explosion. That is the first paragraph of a wild painful transformational story that is in some regards the genesis story of the rest of my life.

I’m taking notes on this, you got pretty badly injured in this.

What happens when you are on fire, you freak out. Though your trained to stop drop and roll. The reality is fear kicks in and self preservation. I took off running on fire through the flames. Screaming for a hero I see my brother Jim, he was 17 and had never done anything kind for me, so that day praying for a hero he was the last guy I thought would be the one, but he’s the one that showed up. He beats down the flame, burns himself in the process, carries me outside, runs back inside and calls 911 saves the 2 dogs and gets everybody outside. He was the 1987 Lifesaver of the year in Missouri. What he ultimately saved was a little boy who’s burns were so bad, 100% was burned, and 87% of those burns were 3rd degree, in 2020 this is a deaf sentence but in 1987 there’s seemingly no earthly chance. Part of our story is the remarkable power of community, faith, collaboration, science, volunteers, servants, parents, family and a community activated for something bigger than themselves.

An unsurvivable experience becomes a moment of time for others to reveal who they are and what they’re made out of.

How do we overcome and move forward?

How do you know your best days are in the future? Franklin Delaware Roosevelt in 45 is being inaugurated for the 4th time, he’s incredibly sick going through a war still as a country, gone through incredible personal health crisis, and he stands infant of the nation and he says, if you can draw a line between the peaks and valleys over the course of centuries you will find fellow citizens that the line trends up. If you look at history, there’s no doubt that our society needs profound redemption, if history is any guide we can recognize we have taken some beautiful steps, we are not done but we are progressing.

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