Today seemed to be a day where the impact we all have on the lives of others was front and center. The day started with me thinking of the incredible blessing we have had of so many people voluntarily being a part of our children's lives, sharing their time and gifts when they receive nothing from that act at all other than the knowledge that they are making a difference. Miss Pat, Miss Elinor, Miss Lael, Mr. Rog, Miss Jane and Mr. Steve have all spent hours upon hours with our kids with no payback in the monetary sense. Although I make feeble attempts to show our gratitude, there really is no way to adequately express that we know our children's lives are richer because of the time they spend with them.
My mind then drifted to those through the years who have unknowingly guided me in ways I carry forward to this day. Bosses from my earliest years in the working world who encouraged and mentored me, friends who have inspired me and nudged me (and sometimes HARD!! Hahaha!), and spirit folks throughout my life who have been God in front of me, nurturing the secret soul places that often remain hidden to others. I've had Mommy Mentors, Adoption Advisers, and Homeschooling Helpers, all of whom have made a big difference in a variety of ways. The faces and names of those who have helped me see possibility and paths remain forever precious to me...from my first boss at 15 years old working at Sav-On, to a treasured and talented manager 10 years later as I spent 7 years learning the ins and outs of pest control and supervising others. I was allowed to make mistakes, I was gently persuaded to try new things or take tests for advancement, I was the recipient of wisdom and knowledge that was willingly shared. There are friends whose carefully chosen words at just the right time meant moving forward with creating a family when we had almost given up on having one, or whose laid back example helped me relax more into the ever changing role of Mom. Then, and perhaps most importantly, there are those who have been God standing right in front of me or perhaps hundreds of miles away, showing me a Christ I had never met before and making my faith spring to life.
It makes you wonder, and this has been on my mind a lot lately as I have caught myself falling into a bit of an unhealthy rut of self-absorption, what sort of impact have I made on the lives of others? What difference have I made? Is there anyone out there carrying any little piece of my presence in their life years later, whether recognized as such or not? The truth is that we all make an impact of some sort on the lives of those we spend time with. The Big Question is, what kind of impact is it...is it a positive, love affirming impact? Or is it a negative, you-have-forever-made-someone-feel-inadequate sort of impact?
Two of the things I have tried to impress upon the kids during this past year of homeschooling is A) We are judged by our actions, actions really do speak louder than words and B) Words mean things. What is B, you ask? We live in a world that at times is uncivil, unkind, unthoughtful. We don't often recognize the power of words. We all understand the power of our actions, we realize that we can talk the talk but if we don't walk the walk then it is all just meaningless gibberish. But do we really recognize the incredible power to lift up of the right word spoken at the right time? Or conversely, the power to wound that a single word can have? Words can wound, words can disillusion, words can kill a spirit so quickly.
We are using a little book called "On My Own" every morning for our Morning Meeting. It is how we begin our day, reading a page or two after having discussed our game plan for the day. This book addresses common concerns and not so common ones, such as what to do if you have a fire in your home, if a stranger knocks and you are alone, if you are getting bad grades. But it also talks about harder subjects such as what to do if your babysitter is smoking or drinking when your parents are gone, or how to handle the emotions of a move to a new community. Today's subject was what to do if someone you are with begins to talk badly about others based upon race or religion. We talked about what might be the best approach with a friend, and even took it a step further about whether they should or shouldn't correct an adult who uses derogatory language. Josh piped up with "But Mom, even if they are an adult, words mean things and we are responsible to say they should stop..." and Kenny asked "But Mommy, aren't people allowed to have their own beliefs? I mean, isn't that about freedom?", then Matt piped up "Yea Kenny, but when that freedom hurts others, then it's not freedom for the person they are hurting."
As this conversation was going on, I thought about all the role modeling that has taken place for each of our kids by others, and yes, even those in Kazakhstan at the orphanage, for someone certainly was paying attention to teaching right from wrong, our girls are too morally grounded to not have had many adults setting a good example. People, who years from now will barely recall our daughters as just two more of the hundreds of kids that were under their care during the course of their tenure at the RBS. But their words meant something, their actions made an impact, they may never be personally recognized for the good that the did, but that good will carry forward halfway around the world.
I think that more often than not, we never really are made aware of the ways in which we have changed others lives for the better. Oh, folks are quick to point out our failings, but seldom do we take time to jot a note, or look someone straight in the eye and say "Your effort has been worthwhile, I appreciate all you do...this specific thing is what has made a difference for me." Sometimes, that impact isn't even recognized until years down the road when suddenly you realize that if someone had not said this, or had not done that, you would not be where you are today.
It's all about intentional living, about giving it a thought now and then to motivate ourselves to act outside of self-interest. It took me years and years to realize that this was truly one of the keys to deep, satisfying happiness. It is not about being a "do gooder" for attention or accolades, it is about living in the moment and doing what we can. Funny how the most meaningful actions can be the very smallest things...often things we don't even think about 10 minutes later, but that someone else clings to for years to follow. If we all lived as if our words would be long remembered and played back over and over again, if we all lived lives that were intentional and sought out small moments of opportunity to offer love and acceptance, how much different would our world be?
Would the child down the street find a loving mentor? Would the co-worker find solace in being heard? Would the husband find reassurance after a trying day at work?
Would someone find God in us?
We may never know the impact we have made, but by living as if we wanted others to see God reaching out to them through us, we can be assured that somewhere along the line, an impact was made. I don't have a clue how anything I have said or done might have impacted others, either intentionally or unintentionally. But I can rely on the simple truth that being a Jesus person and trying daily to follow in His footsteps, some of it might rub off on someone else, and carry forward to places I can't even begin to imagine.