A few days ago, I met several people who had important influences on my life. None had any idea that they had played a valued role in my development. Most of them were men (some were women) who had been nice to me when I was young. Each is now well past retirement age. I knew them before I was a teenager; so they must have been in their early twenties.
As might be expected, I had made only enough of an impression on them to give them a vague memory of me. But, to me, they are still unforgettable characters — my heroes.
One was surprised to learn that I had spent the day with him when the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II. He did remember, though, exactly where he had been. On August 14,1945, his cattle truck had burned out a wheel bearing a long way from home. He had spent much of that day working on the truck at the livestock-sale barn where it had happened. News of VJ Day came through on the radio in the truck cab.
While he had no recall of my being there, the day is clear in my own memory. It was one of many wonderful days on which he had invited me to enjoy the high adventure of riding with him in his big sixteen-wheeler!
Another of my heroes was a career Navy man who would show up at our house from time to time with gifts from distant places for the adults. He thrilled us small boys by giving us rides on his motorcycle.
There are many people I remember fondly: families and homes where sleeping overnight was fun, warm, and comforting; individuals who kidded us in the Dutch language; some who were unique and fascinating because of mannerisms, handicaps, or eccentricities.
It dawned on me what a character-shaping effect we can have on other people's children. My childhood environment was thoroughly seasoned with kind, attentive folks from outside my family. Their natures were inclusive. They drew people in. They made sure young ones were noticed, nurtured—and nourished too.
And so, I ask you. Have you paused to think of the influence you may be having on other people? Perhaps not simply children, but all whom you encounter. In your busy-ness, in your attention to the details of your own life, other folks are nevertheless being influenced by you. That is not to make you feel self-conscious, but rather that you celebrate the fact that you mean something to people — even when you may not realize it.