Go Big: a Legacy

“…love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or planning for it. Simply put: Love Does.” — Bob Goff, Love Does

I witnessed Goff’s definition of love on March 10, 2012, when seven hundred funeral-goers refused to be stationary.

Words were inadequate to communicate our love for Scott, who had loved us so fiercely for twenty-three years before cancer took over. Simply verbalizing what Scott meant to us seemed too static a way to honor one who had been ineffably abundant with adventure.

To honor his legacy and character, we memorialized him the way he would have wanted: through active song, loud dance, and sports jerseys instead of suitcoats. We refused to stay sedentary, singing and dancing to David Crowder songs and “Rocky Top.” The room was full of love and it was full of motion, and for the first time, I realized the two were inseparable.

Scott’s funeral was full of big love because his legacy was just that. He taught us to celebrate the opportunities for adventure in each moment, his few years serving as a tragic reminder of life’s brevity.

In 2011, Paul McCartney toured at Wrigley Field. Lacking tickets, Scott arranged lawn chairs in the streets of Chicago’s Wrigleyville to listen to the concert. His out-of-town friends had to miss the concert to return home. In a play on the expression “Go big or go home,” he taunted them to ignore the practical latter and just “go big.” They agreed to embrace the adventure and the mantra “go big” stuck.

Usually, “go big” signifies taking risks for personal gain. But to Scott and his college-aged friends, adventure was pointless unless its purpose was loving one another. “Go big” radically demands that love be interwoven into each risk taken and adventure seized.

Scott was a decade older than me but part of the same youth group. As I watched his generation of the group surround each other with radical, unconditional joy even through the worst of his sickness, I learned that “to go big” is to love, and to love is to do so tangibly.

Their attitude was so contagious that I decided to change the way I approached the world, by “going big,” too. As evidenced by hundreds sporting Tennessee orange and belting “Rocky Top” from the pews of a conservative Presbyterian church, mine was not the only life altered by Scott. Our youth group adopted “go big” as a community mantra, and Scott’s legacy is still evident in our church today.

Two years after he died, we were brainstorming fundraisers for our service trip. One boy suggested that instead of a typical bake sale, we should bake and sell 100 pies. It was a crazy idea, and our parents and youth leaders declared it impossible. But by then, we believed in going big.

To us, this crazy idea perfectly fulfilled both Scott’s legacy and Goff’s definition of active love. So two weeks later, we decided to quit brainstorming and start baking. It was a school holiday, and the rest of our peers were in bed watching Netflix. We, however, were twelve determined teenagers who spent twelve hours beating, basting, simmering, stirring, pouring, and pinching, until 100 pies lined the counter. We turned our church parking lot into a drive-through for pies, calling it a “Pie-Thru.” To us, “going big” was the only option. We sold all 100 pies and raised thousands of dollars, which enabled us to “do” even more love on the service trip the following summer.

And we didn’t stop there. The “Pie-Thru” is now a biannual tradition and only one of many ways we “go big.” Scott’s legacy has only gained momentum, as my youth group generation understands more fully how to find whimsy in everyday life and keep our love in motion. Scott’s life, death, and legacy taught me that love is active. Yes, Love Does.

In celebratory memory of Scott J Gianopoulos, October 10, 1988 ~ March 5, 2012. We love you.

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