“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
I was a prominent figure in the theatre department as an undergrad. Years after I graduated, I went to a function to honor my professor and mentor, James Austin. At the party I chatted with a young lady who was pursuing her own acting dreams. She introduced herself and I gave her my name. Her eyes got a little bigger, a look of surprise on her face.
“Are you the Jeff King who went here some years ago? The actor? I’ve heard of you. Your name still echoes in the halls at the theatre department!”
A fan. It was nice to learn that I was good enough to be remembered years after I left. Just like some of the legends I’d heard about when I first got there. It was nice to know I was talented enough to have “echoed” in Gundlach Theatre after I left. Especially after tanking in graduate school.
Since then I’ve wondered how long my name will echo in the minds of friends and relatives after I die. Think of it more as a litmus test to show that I lived my life well enough to outweigh the jerk side of my personality.
Not a bad benchmark to go for. Who knows what acts of kindness and consideration we perform that will echo for years – even generations to come?
In another entry, Being Judgmental, I wrote about the young lady I sat with on an overseas flight. An unbeliever, she asked me if I thought she was going to hell. It felt like a challenge. With sorrow, I told her that yes, she was. And that it hurt for me to tell her that. I think it had an impact. I’ll never know. But if it got her thinking, maybe she sought God. Maybe her descendants will be Christian. Maybe. Not bad, eh?
I taught college for three years, several communications courses. I was also a corporate trainer. I spent over ten years altogether heading a classroom. I put a Christian perspective on things when I could.
There was a 30-ish woman in one of my classes. Blond and attractive, she did well, but couldn’t believe she was getting A’s from me. A grade school teacher had told her she was stupid, and she took the barb to heart. She later dyed her hair blond and deliberately made herself a dumb blond. She squeaked through high school, and settled into her persona. It was safe. No one expected anything from her. When I told her she earned her grades from me and that I thought she was very insightful, it was a revelation to her.
Weeks after the term was over, she came by my office to tell me her story. She had dyed her hair back to its natural color, and, for the first time since grade school, felt like a whole person. And all I did was give her the grades she earned and a little encouragement. I knew nothing else of her till it was all over.
A dear friend of mine founded a Christian charity, Friends of Russian Orphans, FORO. She had me join her board of directors, and I helped her as I could. For years I tried to get my church to sponsor our annual Journeys of Joy, bringing orphans to America to spend two weeks with a family here. Over half have since been adopted. For years the answer was no.
Then a new pastor came. His father-in-law is a missionary to orphanages in eastern Europe. So Pastor Carr was gung-ho to do this. In the end, he and his wife adopted Sasha. Now Sasha is being raised a Christian, he lives in a loving family, and his life is infinitely better than it could ever have been in Russia.
I didn’t do much for Journeys of Joy that year. I was out of work, and life was an unimaginable struggle. I think I helped drive the kids to the church from the airport and that was it. I just introduced Pastor Carr to Lisa. A small thing, really. But now Sasha has parents for the first time in memory. He is God’s child. Just because I said, “Pastor Carr, Lisa. Lisa, Pastor Carr.”
I don’t know about you, but I think I hear an echo. Even if I’m only That Guy at the Church.
The point of these anecdotes is that these are the ones I happen to have known about. I believe they are the tip of the iceberg of all the people whose lives I’ve brushed against and have no idea if or what impact I’ve had. I think there are more that I have no clue about.
What about you? Have you been a force for God/good as you brush against other people in your life? Have you performed the good works that God has prepared for you to do? How many echoes will resonate years or generations after you die, whether or not the people who hear them will know where they came from?