I had my Thought prepared to share with you all ready, and then (like many of you, I suppose) I heard, on the news, the announcement of the death of Stephen Sutton. I felt that I had to change the subject of this Thought to pay tribute to a remarkable young man.
A few weeks ago I was leading worship at Upper Caldecote Methodist Church. I asked the congregation to think of people who were inspirational to others. The names of various famous people were mentioned, and then one lady said ‘The young man who was on television, who is dying of cancer but who has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for cancer charity.’
I have to confess that I hadn’t seen the TV news broadcast and she couldn’t remember the young man’s name. But there were a number of nods from people in the congregation who had seen the young man on the TV news and agreed that he was a real inspiration.
Broadcasting on TV might be a good way of getting your message across, but these days it is social media which has the real power. It was the young man’s posting of a selfie online that really helped his campaign gain momentum. His selfie went viral, and Stephen Sutton’s tragic condition and inspirational example took on entirely new dimensions.
His initial fundraising target of £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust was soon exceeded. By the time of his death, Stephen had raised over £3m. The news of his death triggered an avalanche of further donations.
His determination to remain positive throughout his illness was equally inspirational. Stephen’s ‘bucket list’ of 46 things he wanted to do before he died is now famous. There can’t be many ordinary 19- year-olds whose influence was praised in both life and death by leading lights from the world of politics, comedy and sport.
Whilst Stephen Sutton attracted so much public attention, we must remember that he was a young man who belonged to a family who are now grieving for him.
Along with moving words of tribute from his grieving mother, Stephen’s own words, delivered to an audience of over 4000 people at the O2 Arena earlier this year, moved me.
Stephen comes to mind when I remember Jesus saying to his followers, “I have come that people may life in all its fullness.”
Stephen’s death, aged 19, may seem tragic, cruel and untimely. But the ‘courageous, selfless and inspirational’ Stephen would want to remind us that life in all its fullness isn’t measured in terms of time, but rather in terms of making a difference.