Finding inspiration among neighbors like Jim Theisen

Jim CollinsAs a practicing Catholic, I cherish this time of year, but struggle to find the daily motivation and intentionality to keep the often-found spirit of Christmas and the holidays year round, every year of my life.

But I recently had the opportunity to attend the Inspiring People Series hosted by Inspire Café and coordinated by Scott and Julia Theisen.

The place was packed with audience members as young as 4 and as youthful as one who recently turned 90. We were all there to hear from a man who has inspired, supported and impacted each one of us or those around us: Jim Theisen.

As he softly spoke, he displayed sincere emotions which included tears, humor and humility. Within these emotions, Jim inspired us with repeated lessons related to his life’s journey. They included:

“Let go; let God.”

“Giving is merely sharing gifts that were freely given to us by God.”

“Running a successful entity is all about the people who do the work.”

“The more you give the greater joy you’ll experience.”

Toward the end of the evening, Jim received a series of surprise testimonials offered by several individuals whose heartfelt emotions of gratitude (laced with their own tears, quivering voices and sincerity) ranged from monies provided to aid the transition of a Marshallese family to the United States, prayer support for a cancer patient, a reading program for a disadvantaged youth and a job opportunity for a man looking to turn his life around.

I think Mother Teresa had Jim in mind when she said these things:

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Local organization leaders from the Multicultural Family Center, the Boys & Girls Club, the Community Foundation, Holy Family Catholic Schools, Sisters of St. Francis, Dream Center and Catholic Charities, among others, were on hand to offer tributes to Jim based on the impact his involvement or philanthropy has had on countless community members.

Jim has received a number of prestigious recognitions including the TH First Citizen Award and Loras College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, but these are neither sought by him, or what defines him. Instead, what defines Jim is a demonstrated and consistent pattern of goodness shown every day and each and every year.

Growing up in poverty and watching the love of his life, Marietta, battle Alzheimer’s disease would serve as an excuse for most of us, but not Jim. He has intentionally chosen to live a life inspired by his faith, love for others, and desire to spread kindness regardless of one’s creed, identity, age or country of origin.

His service and philanthropy have certainly impacted many, but it is the human touch of a handwritten note, a warm embrace, a supportive word, or an offer to pray that are most representative. He extends these kindnesses to those he knows as much as to the lonely, depressed stranger laying on a bench.

In Jim, I think we can all find the year round, Christ-like inspiration we desire regardless of one’s religious identity. Jim Theisen is a great local example of how to keep the Christmas spirit alive once the holidays have faded.