The Influence of a Life

influenceAs I sit here and write this, the world around me is sleeping.  It’s been a week here where I live.  Kind of hard to believe how much can take place in one week.

It was just a week ago when a young mother from my community was out running with her husband and was hit by a drunk driver, forever changing the lives of two families.  I watched as two communities, my community and the running community, rallied together to show why there is still some hope left in humanity.

On Saturday, people around the world ran in honor of this woman and her family.  Facebook lit up with posts from as far away as Australia, people posting their distances run and giving tribute.  My family and I took part in a run/jog/walk in our community, seeing people all come around dressed in blue, the woman’s favorite color.  To see strangers come together to honor a stranger whom they never knew was powerful.  To be led in prayer at the beginning of the event was even more so.

After the walk with my family, we drove to join my brother and sister-in-law to take a final “deep clean” of my parents’ townhouse.  The rest of the day was spent journeying over the course of 70+ years of life, experiencing memories, seeing pictures, smelling smells, remembering holidays and special occasions of years gone by.

It’s hard to combine a lifetime in a few boxes.  It’s hard to figure out what it is that’s most important, what it is that you want to hang on to.  My parents were far more organized than I am, and maybe ever will be.  For instance, there are 6 boxes containing every sermon my father ever preached from 1968 until he retired as a pastor in 2010.  The majority of them were typed with some handwritten notes here and there.

You encounter memories and wonder what’s worth saving and what needs to be tossed and in the midst of it, you wonder whether you’re going to regret your decision in the future.  What if that thing that ends up in the trash or at Goodwill proved to be more valuable?  Am I going to be looking for something years from now only to discover that it was purged years prior?

Every time that I step foot into this place, time seems to be sucked up in some sort of vacuum.  It’s almost like a casino, but there you can’t see the light of day.  Hours pass and you wonder whether you’ve actually accomplished anything of importance.  You get lost in thoughts and memories, you get captivated by the sights and the smells.  You find yourself turning into that 3 year old or 5 year old or 10 year old child that you see in the pictures surrounding you.

Yet the innocence of youth has faded away.  It’s been replaced with a life that has experienced far more.  There is pain, there is hurt, there is loss.  In some ways, you long for those days so long ago when life was simpler, when it didn’t seem so complicated.  You long for those endless summer days that seemed as if they could go on forever, running, playing, soaking in life.

But life doesn’t stay as simple and innocent as it once was.  Cars crash.  Cancer strikes.  Bodies fail.  Hearts stop beating.  Life changes.

How do you measure a life?

1200 people gathered to celebrate the short life of a woman whose life was snuffed out much sooner than it should have been.  Tens of thousands of people ran to honor her.  Many of those people heard that this woman’s passion extended far beyond running, it extended to her husband, to her children, to her family, and most of all, to her God.  She was a woman who knew Jesus and celebrated life through him.

It’s hard to tell just how far the influence of a life extends.  We probably won’t ever fully know how far it extends, at least not in this life.  But what is it that makes one life stand out over another?  What makes one seem more influential than another?  It’s all a lot to think about, but it does seem that influence can have just as much to do with the person being influenced as it does with the one influencing.

In the end, a life makes a difference to the people that it touches.  What lives are you touching?  Who are you influencing?  If you were gone tomorrow, who would say that they were changed because of something that they had learned from you?

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