I’ve often wondered what a difference it would make if people really understood the impact they have on other people’s lives.  I’ve certainly had days that were greatly improved by seeing a stranger’s smile or watching a loving interchange between mother and child.

I remember when I was a kid during the Vietnam war.  We lived along the route from the training camp to the airport.  I used to sit in the tree along the highway, barefoot and tan, smiling and waving at the soldiers as they drove past.  For me it was like watching a parade.  I can’t imagine what it was like for them, even now.  As young as I was at the time, I was aware that many of the young men riding by were never coming home again.  I really hoped that the “all American” image I projected would give them some sense of pride in purpose.  Even then I was anti-war, but very much wanting to support the troops.  I don’t know if it helped anyone, but I’d like to think it did.

There seems to be something about me that makes me approachable to strangers.  I get asked for directions even when I’m traveling.  I’ve untangled kids from their bicycle chains.  I’ve entered into nonsense conversations with the homeless while waiting for the bus.  Are these the sort of interactions people take for granted, or could they really make a difference in someone’s life?  I’ve certainly had that feeling, like my life has just been saved, when a stranger in a foreign country offered good advice.

I know there are places where I’ve made an impact.  Communities where a turn of phrase I used to teach a lesson comes back to me.  A hospital where the chaplain suggests I look at the book that a member of the family (ME!) brought in.   I have mixed feelings about becoming anonymous in my influence.  On the one hand I’d kind of like some credit.  I have an ego, and even when I am hiding like I don’t want to be noticed that ego still needs feeding.  On the other hand, the blanket acceptance exhibited by “they say” or “you know” just doesn’t come with ready footnotes.

There are places in my life where I’ve actively tried to have an impact.  Most obviously this is with my kids.  Trying to have influence towards a specific outcome, there is a mixed blessing.  I’m pretty sure I have imparted at least as much fuel for the councilors office as I have life lessons.  It sometimes seems that the further removed I am, from my students or the people I’ve mentored or anyone to whom I’ve offered advice, the easier it becomes to filter out the garbage from the gold.

I’ve recently been blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with a couple of guys I used to babysit.  It was incredibly moving and supportive to hear how much they felt my influence in their lives.  I became integrated into their stories (as they have into mine).  To know that just being a part of someone’s life can have such a large impact and especially to get the feedback positively is a precious gift.

I would like to pass that on.  I would also like to encourage you to think about someone in your past who really did have an influence.  Someone who said the right thing at the right time.  Someone who offered encouragement for your secret dreams.  Someone who said yes when everyone else said no.  See if you can find them, and find a way to say, “Hey thanks!  You really made a difference.”  It will make their day.

About lisaspiral

I've been writing and speaking about spirituality to small groups for years and am looking to expand my horizons. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to expand yours as well.

Posted on August 29, 2011, in grattitude, spirituality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. As one of those “boys” whom you used to baby-sit, I can attest to the fact that we all impact our world in ways that we never realize.

    Your previous posting about kindness ties in well with this post. Being kind and benevolent in your day-to-day life, and living transparently/spherically WILL come back to you.

    To have watched family members, and people such as yourself who I consider to be family, on their own paths return into my life time and time again tells me that we are all part of an interdependent web. To have people return carrying “pieces” of me, be they memories, or thoughts I’ve passed along, reaffirms that we are all special. We each have a unique gift.

    What I find most interesting is that for years, we’ve all complained about how technology has pulled us apart. Families don’t spend time together at the dinner table; kids don’t get to know their extended families like they used to, are examples of this. What I’m noticing though, is that social media outlets and texting have done FAR more to bring together people who would otherwise have remained beyond the horizon.

    To your point, yes; Reach out. None of the people I have reconnected with lately have shunned me…and some of these people were originally “banished” due to conflict. Each has welcomed me back into their life(s) to some degree. But all have done so gladly.

    And also, yes; Reach out to the “new” people. Even those with whom you’re likely to have a 5 minute interaction with, and never see again.

  2. I can’t even count the many ways in which knowing and interacting with you has enriched and positively influenced my life. When I need to hear that yes when I’m hearing no no no, when I need no nonsense advice, when I call or visit and something said clicks a big chuck of what was previously just a jumble of puzzle pieces into place to reveal the whole picture. When I count my many blessing, I make sure to add your name to the list of people I’m grateful to call friend and Teacher.

    I find myself now in a similar place. I have worked behind the scenes in the shadows for many years, reaching out to small groups and individuals. Recently I am literally being pushed to teach, to be heard, to speak, to heal. I’m told, don’t think….just do! Don’t worry about the destination, enjoy the adventure! And so I am stepping out on the Fools Journey where it will take me is where I am meant to be. I would like you to know that you are at least in part in the equation that allows me to do this joyfully. Thank you.

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