I got to wondering about the impact people have on others the other day at the drive-through teller line in Hapeville, Ga. There is a small side street that runs beside the bank. While I was sitting there a police officer on a motorcycle road by with his lights flashing followed by a white hearse and …
It was sad to see a funeral that small, because if one assumes that the minister was in one of the cars, that might mean there were only two vehicles of mourners. I started to wonder who this person was to have such a small funeral.
Who was this?
This person wasn’t well liked? Maybe. Or maybe not. I remembered that there was a Vietnamese church a block away, perhaps it was someone new in this country and had only made a couple of friends so far. Maybe it was a newborn child and the parents wanted something very private. There’s plenty of reasons for a small funeral.
So is a person’s life judged by the size of their funeral? Look at who draws the big crowds. A well-known and liked public servant for example. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens passed away recently. After 21 years as an attorney, 7 years as an appeals judge, and 35 years as a Justice (he retired in 2010), I’m sure he had a great impact on people around him. He probably had hundreds of law clerks that worked for him throughout the years, plus his speaking engagements, and of course, countless Appeals Court and Supreme Court decisions.
Celebrities also can have huge funerals. People want to pay their last respects to someone who gave them pleasure with their performances. Royal funerals of course are large because, well, royalty.
In the line of duty
And there are other reasons as well. Recently a 28 year old north Georgia Sheriff’s deputy was killed chasing a burglary suspect. Hundreds gathered for his funeral, including law enforcement officers from all over the area. Now as well liked as he was, I’m sure if he had been killed in an automobile accident or died because of an illness he would have had a normal funeral with friends and family attending, but because he was killed in the line of duty the numbers were far greater. His impact was giving his life in service and to help protect his community.
So a large funeral can be the result of how a person lived, or how a person died. Either way, they left a mark on this spinning piece of rock we call Earth.
What kind of mark I will leave? What impact I will have on someone? I hope that I am having a good impact on my children and grandchildren. Not just as a parent or grandparent, but as a person. I have tried to live my life not doing anything that would intentionally hurt anyone, to be faithful to my wife, to be fair, to treat people like I would like to be treated even if they don’t do the same. To do the right thing. Not that I’m perfect, but I try.
Do I make an impact on people I work with? I don’t have a prestigious job. I’m the manager of a small office in a large division of a huge company. A big part of my job is helping people do theirs. I’ve been here for almost 15 years and I have a lot of acquaintances and feel that I’m well liked. Every time I go into the lunchroom or warehouse I get plenty of “Hey Mr. Larry” comments. I can’t think of anyone of those that know me that would say they don’t like me, and I can say there’s no one here that I don’t like. Maybe one affects the other.
Having an impact on people we don’t know
And what about people that don’t know me? I have always tried to be polite in public, holding doors for people, giving a “good morning” and a smile. “Please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome” (not “no problem”). Just generally being nice to people. I always try to hold my wife’s hand in public, I hope we can have a positive impact on younger people when they see an older couple still in love.
There are many things that you can do that can have an impact on other people. Some for the positive, some for the negative. And sometimes you never know how you will impact someone.
That person with the three car funeral had an impact on me, and I don’t even know who they were.