The following account may or may not be historical. Either way, it’s true.
It was Christmas Eve, 1910. General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army was an invalid and near the end of his life—it was impossible for him to attend the Army’s annual convention.
Someone near the General suggested that Booth send a telegram to be read at the opening of the convention to the many Salvation Army soldiers in attendance as an encouragement for their many hours of labor serving others throughout the holidays and the cold winter months. Booth agreed.
Funds were limited and telegrams charged by the word, so to ensure as much money as possible would still go to help the needy, General Booth decided to send a one word message. He searched his mind and reviewed his years of ministry, seeking the one word that would summarize his life, the mission of the Army and encourage the soldiers to continue on.
When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that Booth could not be present due to his failing health. Gloom and pessimism swept across the convention floor until the moderator announced that Booth had sent a telegram to be read at the start of the first session. He opened the message and read just one word:
Signed, General Booth.
A fascinating tale is told of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. The account might be legendary, but it is also wonderfully provocative. The story goes that around 1900 the General was preparing to send his annual Christmas greeting to all his Salvationists serving around the world. Since this had to be done by telegraph—which charged for each word sent—the whole process proved quite expensive. Times were tough that year, and it was calculated that there was only enough money available to wire a single word to each missionary. The one-word message the General chose to send simply said, “Others!”
I have found that when I set out to make my day good for me or do good things for myself, at the end of that day I ponder whether or not it was truly a good day. And as I reflect on my puzzling lack of fullness, I wonder why I am even concerned about it at all.
Ever felt like that?
But when I set out to make the day better for someone else, for “others”—an encouraging phone call or visit, a prayer for a friend, a kind word to a stranger, lending a helping hand with a chore or just holding a hand—when my day has been about others, I sleep well at night and never wonder whether or not the day was good. It was.
Life is always about others—we’re built that way despite all the selfie trends floating around this world. And others is what Jesus has always been about. Look at everything He did—it was always for someone else. You can even tell by His arrival on earth as a baby and by how much we cherish that thing we call the “Christmas Spirit”. God gave us Jesus and Jesus gave everything. But He also took a few things, too—our sins and our guilt, and He took the sting out of death. For others. For us. For you.
So, have Merry Christmas and remember to have a wonderful day—every day. Like Jesus.