For a fabulous life, serve others

Published 1:12 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

As you get older, people who were famous when you were growing up exit the stage permanently. My husband and I had a conversation about that in relation to many of the musicians who were popular during our teenage years and are no longer with us.

Of course, it not just musicians we lose. This morning I read where another icon died Monday. Shirley Temple Black passed away at the age of 85 at her home in California.

Now, I didn’t go to the movies to see any of her films. When she was a “little,” big star, I wasn’t born yet. However, she was on television a lot when I was growing up. Her movies often played on Saturday afternoons, sometimes as a double feature with a Little Rascals film.

I don’t know if my older children knew much about her, but my youngest child loved her. Her grandmother, my mother-in-law, was a Shirley Temple fan and introduced her grandchild to her movies. There was something that captured my child’s attention, and that is saying a lot because her attention span was pretty short when she was small.

Seeing and hearing Shirley Temple singing, “On the Good Ship Lollipop” is still a happy experience. I mean, who didn’t love the cute little girl with the dimpled smile and bouncing curls.

One story I read said she was and still is the most famous and recognizable child star of our time. In a world where child stars often grow up to write tell-all books about the horrors of their childhoods, and end up as sad adults, Shirley Temple Black followed a very different path.

When I read about her death, I learned amazing things about her life. She was born in April 1928 and made her acting debut at the age of three. At age six, she appeared in her first Hollywood feature film and quickly became the studio’s top moneymaker.

Even the president of the United States was her fan and dubbed her “Little Miss Miracle Maker” for raising the public’s spirits during the hard times of the Depression.

“As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Of course as often happens, her popularity faded as she got older. Seems her audience couldn’t accept that their cute “Little Princess” was growing up and becoming an adult.

This is where her story takes a very different turn from many child stars. Instead of lamenting her lost popularity, Shirley Temple Black turned her attention to serving others.

From 1969 to ’70, she served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and became ambassador to Ghana in 1974. Two years later, she became chief of protocol of the United States, a position that she held until 1977.

In 1988, Temple became the only person to date to achieve the rank of honorary U.S. Foreign Service officer. Then from 1989 to ’92, she served as ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

It was her service and love for her family, more than her fame as an actor, that those closest to her remembered when they issued a statement about her passing.

“We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of 55 years.”

In the book that she did write, the star said her life was fabulous and called her mother her “best friend.” Again, a nice change from what we usually hear from grownups who were once childhood celebrities.

So, another icon has left us. It is nice to know that Shirley Temple Black’s life was fabulous. It might be a good idea for the Honey Boo Boo’s and Justin Bieber’s of the world to look at how this woman lived.

The lesson for them, for other child stars and for all of us — If you want your life to be fabulous, make it a life of service to others.