16 March 2005


Sergeant 1st Class Nathan Chapman became briefly famous when he died in an ambush near the Afghan town of Khost in early January 2002.

During a video interview, his wife, Renae Chapman, said, “He gave everything he had, everywhere he was, to everyone he knew, and he wanted everyone happy.” She recalled how Sergeant Chapman frequently invested in their two children: “He never sat around. He was always, always doing something, taking them for a walk, giving them a bath, playing with them in the park.”

Take the Opportunity
A nation will remember Sergeant Chapman’s heroic death, but his wife and children will remember a husband and father who freely gave to them long before he landed in Afghanistan. And that generosity can continue reproducing itself like ever-widening ripples on a pond.

Most people do not have extraordinary wealth; most will never receive recognition from outside their circle of acquaintance. Generous individuals, however, manage whatever resources they have and do the “little” things that contribute to others’ lives.

Dramatic events might not throw you into the world’s spotlight, but you can find out what a customer needs, encourage a coworker, and spend an evening with the family when you could be doing something more exciting.

Start Today
Develop habits of personal improvement that will allow you to bring greater creativity to your job. Learn from your experiences rather than merely waiting for challenges to go away.

Work at understanding the people around you. Know their preferences, skills, and strengths so that you can help them succeed. Manage your time so that you have the time to help others when they have problems.

Recognize your own limitations. Do not try to make decisions for others or assume that you completely understand the problem or the solution. The goal of generosity is not to “fix” the person, but to make their burden lighter in whatever way you can.

Change Your World
When someone asked her how she wanted her husband remembered, Renae Chapman said, “I want them to remember him as a quiet professional who just wanted to change the world.” This sounds like an ambitious goal, but it is already true for Sergeant Chapman’s friends and family.

Dedicate yourself to recognize needs and help others. Changing the world might not be that far away!

This article first appeared in Character First's bulletin series 3. It is reprinted here with permission from Character First and Strata Leadership.

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