In October 2001, Felix Del Valle Senior was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS attacked Felix’s nerve cells and pathways in his brain and spinal cord. As his cells deteriorated, he began to lose voluntary muscle control and the ability to move. His first concern, as a single parent, was not about the disease that would take his life, but for the future of his four children.
Lori Burgess, an administrator with the Visiting Nurse Association, had known Felix simply as the sandwich maker in her office cafeteria—the guy who lit up lunch hour with his smile.1 When she heard he was sick, she went to speak to him. “He was more worried about his kids than about himself,” Burgess recalled. “It occurred to me 10 minutes later that my husband and I could take them in with our three kids.”2 When she told her family of Felix’s plight, her husband David didn’t hesitate. Nor did the three Burgess children. “What if it were us?” David Jr. asked. It was a simple as that.3
Felix was buried just before Father’s Day, 2003. The Del Valle family is learning to live their lives without their father. The Burgess family is learning to live their lives with four new members. All are learning to understand the Golden Rule.
That’s going the second mile.
What about walking the first mile, you might ask. Going the first mile would have been giving sympathy and concern, maybe sending a flower arrangement or allocating some money for college funding. Would that have been helpful? You bet it would have been. The Del Valle’s would have appreciated the gesture and wouldn’t have thought any more of it. But the Burgess family went one mile further. And those extra steps—huge steps—made all the difference in the lives of those kids.