Any good that you can do

Born in 1926, Joseph Levitch had dreams of a career in show business.
It seemed a reasonable goal since he had begun performing as a five-year-old, singing “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”
Joseph’s dream was so strong that he quit high school at age 15 to try his luck as an entertainer.
Always creative, he had devised a comedy routine and actually was successful in getting a booking in Buffalo, N.Y. But, sadly, his act was a dismal failure.
After his flop, Joseph was deeply depressed. He worked as a theater usher and was ready to give up his dream. Fortunately, an older actor supported and encouraged Joseph to give show business one more try.
This time Joseph was successful. And he never again thought of giving up his dream—even when the going became very rough.
Then, after a long career in show business, at age 69, Joseph’s determination paid off when he finally realized his lifetime dream–starring on Broadway, where he played the Devil in “Damn Yankees.”
Like many other actors, such as Roy Scherer (Rock Hudson) and Doris Kappelhoff (Doris Day), Joseph Levitch had a stage name. It was Jerry Lewis.
Lewis was born into a show business family. His father called himself Danny Lewis. And for a short time, Joseph was Joey Lewis but soon changed to Jerry to distinguish himself from the well-known boxing champion.
At age 20, Lewis teamed up with an older actor named Dean Martin—and the comedy team was an immediate hit. Within a year, they went from earning $300 a week to $30,000.
And ever since, Lewis has been paid handsomely for his work.
In 1959, his contract with Paramount was for $10 million up front, plus 60 percent of the profits. He was the highest paid actor of the time.
After Lewis distinguished himself as an actor, director, and producer, this high school dropout began teaching graduate film courses at the University of Southern California, where one of his students was Steven Spielberg.
He was so successful that his lectures have been collected into a book, “The Total Film-Maker,” which is an influential textbook.
Very generous with his millions and his time, Lewis has been a long-time supporter of muscular dystrophy research and national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association for many years, serving as host for the annual MDA Labor Day telethon from 1966-2011.
The telethon has netted more than $2 billion.
His charitable giving fits with his life mission statement–a statement borrowed from Quaker Stephen Grellet (1773-1855).
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again!”
Come to think about it, what a wonderful goal for all of us. What’s good enough for Jerry Lewis is good enough for us!
So, remember, any good that you can do or any kindness that you can show, do it today. Do not neglect it.
Remember that you will not pass this way again!
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist.
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