Betty White and Me

I was sad to hear of Betty White’s passing this week, just short of her 100th birthday. Many years ago, Betty and I starred in a musical together. It’s more accurate to say that she was the star, but I played her son, which was a nice role too.

I was 10 at the time, and the musical was “Take Me Along.” We got to sing and dance together in front of about 4,000 people a night, and it was a great experience.

There are three lessons I learned from my experiences with Betty—who was a really nice person, by the way.

First, I learned that fear is a normal part of life, and sometimes we need to jump into our role and do things despite our fears. Before Betty and I took the stage the first night, she asked, “Jimmy, are you feeling afraid at all?”

“Yeah, I sure am!” I replied sheepishly.

“Well, I am too!” Betty told me with a wink. “But I’ve found that when I confront my fears, they always go away soon after I get started.”

Her words were very reassuring, and I’ve never forgotten them. It was okay to feel a little nervous before singing and dancing in front of thousands of people. Even Betty White was a little scared before the opening curtain rose. But she had done it many times before, and she knew the fears would soon pass.

What about you? Are your fears causing you to procrastinate about “taking the stage” in a new phase of your life? If so, it’s time to cast your fears aside and “do it afraid”—because the curtain is opening on a new year and on new opportunities!

The second lesson about Betty is that I never realized how successful and famous she would ultimately become. Wouldn’t it have been great if I had the foresight to stay in touch with her all these years?

This is an important lesson I hope you will take to heart today. You may be rubbing shoulders with someone destined for greatness, so the best policy is to value and honor everyone you encounter along the way. You may even want to get their phone number in case they end up becoming a celebrity!

In Genesis 40 we read about the king’s butler and baker who shared a prison cell with a young Hebrew man named Joseph. Who could have imagined that one day he would be the most powerful man in Egypt?

The moral of the story is that we should treat everyone as if they are destined for greatness—for in God’s eyes, they are.

I’m struck by one final lesson from Betty’s passing. Although I haven’t been with her for 60 years, I’m still impacted by her life and legacy. I can’t help wondering about you and me: Will our legacy still be impacting people 60 years from now?

You see, at my advanced age, I’ve concluded that everything is about leaving a legacy. You’re never too young to start sowing seeds of kindness to the people around you. Someday people will celebrate your life and share lessons they learned when they were with you.

Goodbye, Betty. Thanks for 99 years well lived.