“Every life comes with an expiration date” said the acquaintance in line as I waited close to 3.5 hours to say my goodbye’s to a good friend who tragically lost her life in a boating accident. “This certainly isn’t an ideal situation” he said as the awkward conversations continued to magnify in this extended visitation. Ha – ideal…death is never ideal!
I spent a lot of time thinking about Megan’s dash in those hours as I looked at her remembrance card that read 1986-2014. I thought about the memories I not only had with her but with all of my loved ones, friends and family who had reached their expiration date. It’s hard not to imagine your own dash in those moments. Will I leave the type of legacy or impact that they left? How will I be remembered? It’s not a coincidence that many of my articles are purpose centered or ‘difference’ driven. Life really is short. It’s not just a cliché. Knowing this, shouldn’t our life mean something?
I reflected on all the times I may have stood in line at the supermarket thumbing through my social networking sites on my Smartphone when just inches away there was an elderly woman just looking for a little social interaction…and I missed it…knowing full well that she was probably closer to her expiration date than I. I thought about the comments my dear grandmother would make as too often my cell phone seemed to take precedence over our relationship when all she was hoping for was an uninterrupted conversation with her grand-daughter; and those missed opportunities are now gone because she is gone. The choices we so often make without realizing the effect or the regret we may later experience because of those decisions. Sometimes God shows Himself during the most in-opportune times and we either seize the opportunity or we miss it.
I have reflected on those moments more often in the last 6 months than I ever have in my life. The average person is not thinking about their dash; they are not thinking about how their decisions will affect their relationships with people; they are not thinking about their expiration date.
The anxiety (or urgency) I generally experience on a daily basis has disciplined my awareness to the people and situations I am in and with so much un-anticipated grief around me I can’t help but slow down and reflect on what is truly important. I spent some time last night looking out over the waters of a beautiful landscape thinking about my friend’s whose lives had just expired realizing that my life could end in an instant just like theirs; understanding that I too am faced with an expiration date.
While sitting in my silence, I reached down towards the pebbles below and tossed one into the calm waters that reflected the bright setting sun. The ripple practically stretched for miles as I discovered the metaphor that God was revealing to me in that instant. It didn’t take long for me to understand the parallel that even just one pebble could stretch further than I ever thought possible – if thrown into a large body of water.
Imagine this with me if you will:
Pebbles are small acts of kindness we do for others and the body of water is our community. If we have a small body of water wouldn’t it make sense that even multiple pebbles thrown into a small body of water would only extend as far as the body of water that it’s thrown into? Everyone will leave a ripple effect. But the difference in the ripple will be determined by the number of people you’ve influenced…NOT just the number of pebbles that you toss into the water. Which, metaphorically speaking, it doesn’t matter how much influence you have in one person’s life or how many small acts of kindness you make in a small community, if our ripple only extends to as far as our body of water reaches then it’s only logical that our impact eventually stops once that ripple reaches the shoreline.
Knowing this, I would rather focus on the size of the body of water rather than the number of pebbles thrown. Most people have no problem helping their friends and family or the people they already know, tossing more and more pebbles into that same small community. But wouldn’t it make sense that if we want to increase our influence and impact more people’s lives, we have to look outside of our current circle of friends and family?
The next question may be, how do we gain such influence? That’s simple – servant leadership. The people who have made the biggest difference in my life were complete strangers to me before they decided to extend their body of water, increase their leadership and serve others. They are men and women who looked outward from their own circle because they knew that it wasn’t about the size of the pebble or the number or pebbles, they knew it was about the size of the body of water and ‘the people’ they were led to serve. Men and women like Orrin and Laurie Woodward who choose to extend their body of water and serve on a daily basis, not because they expect something in return, but because they care about people and the purpose God has for them in helping people.
What I love so much about the LIFE Leadership community is that it’s a platform to extend our body of water and our influence so far and so wide that our ripple effect could essentially echo into eternity. I have been blessed to meet and befriend so many people that were complete strangers to me prior to being associated with the LIFE community; and conversely people have befriended, helped and influenced me in more ways than I can even describe. And in all of our interactions we have been granted a mission to pay it forward affecting another person’s life and potentially, their legacy.
When Jackie Lewis reached the finish line, 100’s of thousands of people across the nation were affected by her life and her message and she continues to change and impact people’s lives today. Because of her love of people and her servant heart, Jackie’s ripple and her legacy will continue to extend for generations and I am certain she is reaping a boundless reward in Heaven today.
But certainly the best example of influence is Jesus. We have a model of servant leadership in Jesus Christ that has directly impacted and changed lives for thousands of years and His ripple continues to span across the globe. It is because of Him, that we have any influence or ripple at all. His influence is eternal and it’s the type legacy we should all live our lives striving for.
Life is short. As my mentor Jill Guzzardo says, “We don’t have a 1,000 years to do this…”
Live your life so that when you die you continue to live through all the lives you’ve changed.