I’ve been thinking about the people who have impacted and touched my life in meaningful ways over the past little while. These are the people who have left their fingerprints on my life. Some have passed. Some are still here. All have had a part in shaping my life in a meaningful and profound way.
Meet ‘Mrs. B’. Her first name is Carolyn although I could never bring myself to her call that. She came into my life when I was about 10 years old. ‘Mrs. B’ was my pastor’s wife and became my mom’s best friend. She was my Sunday School teacher, my ‘youth group’ leader, confidante, mentor and friend.
While she certainly had ‘positional authority’ in my life because of her place in the church and in our family circle, her real influence came because of her relational investment in me. She was determined to be my friend and found ways to make herself welcome in my world. Mrs. B was a master at finding opportunities to speak into my life in meaningful ways.
The church I grew up in was very small and many Sundays and Fridays, I was the only attendee in my age group in Sunday School or at ‘Youth Group’. (Is it really youth GROUP on the weeks that I was the only one there?) She was always prepared with something meaningful to say whether it was just me or if by some stroke of Providence more than 5 or 6 others showed up! Her influence was intentional. Rather than just hoping she’d land upon something worthwhile to say, she thought about it, prayed about it and prepared for it ahead of time.
It’s probably safe to say that I disappointed and frustrated her far more times than I made her feel like a roaring success in those years. It’s not that I didn’t understand or grasp what she was sowing into my life. It’s more that I was strongwilled and determined to do things my way, or at least to do things my way as often as I could get away with. Her influence was persistent. She wasn’t going away or leaving me alone just because I wasn’t responding positively. She just kept preparing and showing up. Over time her persistence had a profound impact. Preparation and persistence are key influence ingredients.
I learned to play the guitar when I was about 14. In a word, I was terrible. I could manage about 3 chords on a good day. On an exceptional day, I could play 5. She convinced me that she needed me to play guitar for our ‘youth group’. We had grown to about 8 people but were limited to about 4 songs every week in those early days! She helped me grow in my abilities and uncovered the gift of music in my life. Over time, music became a big part of my world. Mrs. B gained influence in my life because she added value to it.
The Brown’s moved to another community within a few weeks of my High School graduation. At the end of my first year of college, I lost a brother in a car accident. It fell to me to call the important people in our lives to let them know the sad news because both of my parents were receiving treatment. Mrs. B was my 1st call. On the day of his funeral, I played guitar with a band in the church where the Brown’s were serving. (It sounds premature, but it was the best thing for me.) That night, Mrs. B helped me process the trauma and pain of what had happened in my world over the previous 4 days. I know she would have reached out to me even if I was a stranger, but her impact that night came because of 8 years of making herself present and available. Longevity results in influence.
Mrs. B has been gone from this life for almost 20 years but her fingerprints remain on my life and I’m in no hurry to wipe them away.