One of my favorite quotes comes from the treasured stoic philosopher, Seneca, who said ,“What fortune has made yours is not your own.” And I can think of no better words to describe this month’s #BeBetter Hero.
For someone who worked with his hands as a carpenter in Des Moines, Iowa, for most of his life, Dale Schroeder, was by no means what you would consider a wealthy man.
But through his frugal lifestyle and amazing ability to save money during his 67 years working at the same business he always had, he found a way to pay the college tuition for 33 strangers. Some of whom he would never meet, by the time he died in 2005, his small fortune of almost $3 million would undoubtedly leave an impact on those who would benefit some point in the future.
Schroeder was said to have owned only two pairs of jeans, one for work and one for church, according to his friend Steve Nielsen. That same friend, who is also a lawyer, helped Schroeder establish an endowment before the carpenter’s death after Dale walked into his office one day asking for some financial and legal guidance.
He hadn't had the chance to go to college but wanted others to be able to get an education.
Since his death in 2005, that money has been awarded to 33 Iowans in the pursuit of a college degree.
Affectionately know as "Dale's Kids", they all recently met for a dinner to catch up on each other's lives and to honor the man who made their dreams possible. With the old carpenter's lunch pail as a center piece to the table, many of the recipients who would go on to become teachers and doctors expressed their extreme gratitude for the generosity of someone so unassuming.
Kira Conard, the last person to receive one of Schroeder's scholarships, was one of those few. Having the dream of becoming a therapist faced major financial roadblocks and she was at a loss with how to overcome the huge costs an education like that would bring.
"For a man that would never meet me to give me basically a full ride to college, that's incredible. That doesn't happen," she said.
Schroeder's legacy lives on as Dale's Kids are making their mark on the world. Putting 33 students through school has finally run the charitable well dry.
"All we ask is that you pay it forward," Nielsen said. "You can remember him, and you can emulate him."
How will you make your mark on the world? Nothing short of humbling and inspirational, this story serves as a reminder to all of us that if we truly want to make a difference in the world, we can. No matter how lucrative of a job we might have or how glamorous of a lifestyle we choose to live, each and every one of us can make a choice to leave this world infinitely better than we came into it.