By Terry Frisk
In Genesis, we learn that God created humans in His own image. However, God gave each of us unique individual abilities. In 1 Peter, the apostle Peter discusses Christian life and duties. In Chapter 4, verse 10, he states:
“God has given each of you special abilities; use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.” (TLB)
This verse is exemplified by an artist named Jeff Hanson. Jeff was born in 1993 to parents Hal and Julie Hanson in Overland Park, Kansas. At age 12, Jeff was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 and an optic chiasm brain tumor (he named CLOD) that was slowly taking away his vision. While undergoing chemotherapy treatment, he started painting watercolor notecards as a diversion. This led to a curbside business selling his creations and mom’s brownies, with the proceeds benefiting the Children’s Tumor Foundation to fund optic tumor research.
At the suggestion of his eye doctor, Jeff transitioned to acrylics-on-canvas with heavy texture and bold colors. He maintained a “philanthropy first” philosophy, giving many of his paintings to charities for fundraising auctions. He set a lofty goal of raising $1 million for charity by age 20 which he reached at age 19. He then set another lofty goal to raise $10 million by age 30.
Jeff saw the world through a different lens, not because of his visual impairment, but through the joy of using his God-given talent for art to positively impact others. He refused to be defined by his challenges and embraced his abilities. Though he could not do many things most of us take for granted, like driving a car or participating in sports, he could live a happy, productive life by focusing on what he COULD do. His generosity gave his work purpose that brought him much joy and happiness.
We were blessed with one of Jeff’s paintings as a gift which we have hanging in our bedroom. Each morning I sit up in bed, say a prayer and gaze at the painting. I always see something new each time I look at it. It not only decorates our bedroom, but it is a source of great inspiration. Jeff’s generosity is contagious. I am hopeful that my own generosity will grow and pass on to others.
In my columns, I like to suggest action steps to take to grow in your faith. For this issue, I draw on Hal Hanson’s reflections in his book, Lessons from CLOD, recounting Jeff and his family’s journey.
- Focus on what youCANdo – Take inventory of your God-given talents and develop these into skills. I have always had an interest in analyzing numbers. When I was young, I graphed my favorite baseball players’ stats to measure their performance. It was only natural that I pursued a career in accounting.
- Find a purpose– Establish why you do what you do. Jeff’s purpose was to “change the world through art.” My purpose is to increase family financial well-being through nurturing the businesses that employ them.
- Be passionate in what you do– Pursue what excites you. CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt had a news segment where he interviewed everyday people across the country. I remember one segment with a garbage collector who was very passionate about his work. He recognized the importance of his work to his patrons and truly loved his work. Quoting Americanpoet, Maya Angelou, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” Precisely what Jeff Hanson did!
- Practice extreme generosity– Generosity begets generosity. As Jesus states in Luke 6:38:“Give and it shall be given to you.” Generosity takes many forms, including acts of kindness, personal service and monetary donations. An attitude of generosity in all that you do will be recognized by others who will be generous in return. The book relates a story about how Jeff met Elton John and presented a check for $1,000 to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Elton responded by donating $5,000 to the Children’s Tumor Foundation and flying Jeff and his parents to Dubai to attend his concert. Recognition for Jeff’s generosity snowballed from there.
- Never quit dreaming– No matter what happens in your life, never stop dreaming about a better future for you, your family and your community. Dreams support your purpose. Keep dreaming and pursue those dreams.
Sadly, Jeff was diagnosed with a new tumor in October that took his life on December 20. At age 27, he had raised $6.7 million toward his $10 million goal. However, his philanthropy lives on. You can learn more by visiting his website at www.jeffhansonart.com.
Terry Frisk is a partner in the firm B2B CFO, providing financial advisory services to small businesses. He also counsels individuals on personal financial matters through the Cathedral of the Rockies Budget Counseling ministry. He may be contacted through e-mail at email@example.com.