This week marked the anniversary a day that changed my life. Early in the morning of May 26, 1997 my phone rang and I found out that my father had passed away suddenly. His loss is still keenly felt when there is a problem and I need advice, when my daughter does something amazing or a family gathering comes around. Needless to say, he has been on my mind quite a lot this week.
Now, don’t fret, I don’t think you will need a hankie for this post (no promises!). I was have been trying to find a succinct way to illustrate my dad’s impact on not just me, but the world at large. Then, I read a quote and instantly found a wonderful way to describe my dad along with a lesson for us all.
My dad did not just interact with people, but he cared for them, gave generously to them, listened to them, made them laugh and gave them food for thought. He loved people and whenever the opportunity arose, he let them know that God loved them as well.
I know he impacted a large circle of people in his life. I am still hearing stories of how he made a difference for people. With smiles, the stories still are told by family, friends, former coworkers and church members, even though he has not been with us for over 20 years. My husband also has a precious binder full of sermons my dad wrote and preached , and those messages will be preached again. Life was not always easy, but you’d never know it from dad. He always ready with a kind word, a listening ear, a joke, a ride to work, ready to share money, possessions, time and laughter – so much laughter.
In this quarantine life we are living, with the increased stress, anxiety and hopelessness that surrounds many, it is the perfect season for cultivating the gift of leaving someone better than you find them. Your spouse, a parent, child, former teacher, colleague or a stranger. So many times this can be something small to you, but a day or life-changing experience for someone else. Call a friend, send a thank you card, or text a joke to an acquaintance. Strike up a conversation in that long line at the store. Give away things, not just your junk but your good stuff too. Porch drop a meal. Work hard even for that grumpy boss. Express gratitude. Smile behind your mask. Be present and listen. I think almost above all, people want to be seen and heard.
My dad found out the secret. Serving others isn’t always convenient or comfortable, but it always is rewarding. To make someone smile or laugh, to lift their burden, even ever so slightly, to exhibit a positive perspective on a rotten no-good day can make you feel like almost nothing else this side of heaven.
Dad also regularly exemplified the best way to impact lives around him. Dad did not just want to go to heaven, but he wanted to make sure lots of people joined him there. If you are a Jesus-follower, the best way to leave people better than you find them is to love them to the One who moves mountains, breaks chains and makes broken hearts whole. If you haven’t met Jesus, let me know. It would be my joy to introduce you.