He didn’t see me coming from behind. Intently staring at his cell phone, I could see by his broad smile that whatever was on the screen was either funny or brought him much joy. As I kissed his cheek, he woke from the trance and hugged me.
“Let me show you something,” my stepdad said.
He pulled the message from his cell phone, and read his daughter-in-law’s text out loud.
She spoke of his influence in her life, and the admiration she holds. He grinned from ear to ear, the words filling his heart with joy.
“I never thought she felt this way about me,” he said.
What followed was a conversation about people that we influence and don’t even know it.
A similar situation happened to me just the day before. As I was leaving my church’s choir room, a lady that I know from a distance stopped to thank me for something I had written the week before. Her eyes filled with tears as she told me that the devotional had been received “right when she needed it.”
As my stepdad and I continued discussing the importance of leaving a positive legacy, a Christian song that I heard years ago kept coming to mind.
The song, titled “What’s Your Story,” speaks of small gestures that seem to go unnoticed, but which impact people’s lives daily. In the chorus of the song, a poignant question rings, which I will never forget:
“What will they say when you leave?”
Wow. Think about it.
In the song, the idea behind the question is to make us think about how we are impacting eternity, but, in reality, the honest answer to this question can help influence each word we say and every decision we make.If we were a fly on the wall … what would we hear people say when we leave the room? Click To Tweet
The fact of the matter is — we impact people’s lives daily. From the shyest of human beings to the most famous and outspoken world leader — whether on a small or large scale — our words, actions and decisions leave a mark. No question about it.
We simply don’t stop to reflect on this truth often enough. Should we do it, we would hold our tongues more often. We would think longer before commenting on social media. We would pray more before acting. And wait a little longer before hastily jumping to conclusions.
We would be more sympathetic, and more forgiving. More caring, and more careful.
Some of Jesus’ most famous words recorded in the gospels are compiled in a sermon famously named “The Beatitudes.” At the end, he summarizes his teaching with what is known as The Golden Rule: “Treat others the same way you want to be treated.”
As I think about the people in my life — from husband to children, from parents to siblings, from acquaintances to my closest friends, I want to live a life that, though far from perfect, will essentially leave a positive mark when I leave. I don’t need to know about it, but I want to live a life which will be remembered as one that brought more joy than sorrow, more laughter than tears, more forgiveness than revenge.
It’s not a matter of “if” they will say something when you leave. It’s a matter of “what” they will say.
May God help us remember that, the next time we feel the urge to say something negative, complain, or seek to retaliate. Someone is always watching. Your words can be forgiven, but not forgotten. Neither will your love and kindness.
May they say great things about us, every time we leave the room. May our loving influence remain, long after we leave this world.
This article was published on Patricia’s column for The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Saturday, June 10, 2017.When you leave this earth, will you leave a lasting, positive influence? Read this. Click To Tweet