From the front pew of First Baptist Church that cold morning at the beginning of December, it felt like the world might collapse in on me. My mom had died unexpectedly earlier in the week and there I was, surrounded by my family, my friends, and friends of my parents. Every eulogy brought more sobbing and grief – but not just for me, for the scores of others who came to celebrate and honor my mother’s life. They were holding me up, their presence a testament to the extent her servant-heart had reached.
Throughout that heart-breaking day and week, I was continually struck by the impact my mom had and by the number of people who shared testimony of it. She had touched so many lives: the single-mom who was new to town, the elderly man whose wife had died months earlier, the manager from the retirement home, the caretaker of a retarded woman, the parents of a pregnant meth-addict, the wayward cousins from out of town, and dozens of others like them. They all gave my family the gift of their stories and the multitude of kindnesses my mom had done for them – a delivered meal, a ride to church, a plate of favorite cookies, a few small toys to entertain the children during church, a listening ear, a pot of coffee at the ready, a baby shower for a new mother, hours of volunteer work. I had known the power my mom had in my own life – I felt her in every part of it, but until then I had never recognized the power she’d had in so many other lives.
Years before this point in my life I’d seen the movie, The Power of One (directed by John G. Avildsen). The story had a profound impact on me. Over the course of his life, this young man – P.K. – learns the lesson nature teaches: that a great waterfall comes from a single drop of water. The story is spectacular and inspirational, forging love and kindness and service from loss and tragedy and despair.
While my mom and P.K. were worlds apart, and her life less epic than a film on the big screen, the lesson is the same. Like the ripples created by tossing a stone into a still lake, each of us has the power to impact not only the lives of those we touch directly, but also the lives of their family, friends, coworkers, classmates, acquaintances, and so on.
As a mother and as a teacher, I hope to create such a ripple effect in the lives of my children and my students. I pray that their time with me makes their lives better somehow and that they continue to seek better lives for themselves and for those who occupy their world. By accomplishing such a goal, my mom’s life, power, and influence will continue to touch lives far beyond those people either of us ever knew.
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