Living under the influence


I want to share with you an activity that I was a part of at Bedford College.
It was the final devotional assembly of the day, and the business students at the Glebe campus and I began to talk about influence. I wheeled out the whiteboard and played the scribe as the students shared ‘famous’ people who had a positive influence or impact on their lives. The somewhat predictable cavalcade of names was shouted out: Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Gough Whitlam (who had passed the preceding day, Vale!). Then there were some less predictable names… Kanye West for one. The students then thought and discussed what the impact was and how it had played out in their lives.
We rubbed the board clean and moved on to people who the students had met. People (living or dead) who had made a direct impact on their lives. We had family members, high school teachers, employers, sports coaches, and a guy who ran a charcoal chicken shop. Some were present for the whole of the student’s life, others dropped in only for a season, and one, for only a moment. The students thought and reflected on the influence and impact again, and then we shared. It was beautiful to hear how these ‘ordinary’ folk had, through thoughtful words, kind gestures, or just a general attitude of support, made a lasting and profound impact upon these emerging adults. People who had never attained the level of exposure or esteem as our first list, yet had made a far more substantial, immediate, and personal impact. These were people, who are like many of us, and will be like many of the students present – they don’t have public holidays in their honour, they didn’t speak in parliament, and they never received that book deal – but by simply living their ordinary, everyday life they changed the lives of others.
Our conversation then turned to the lives of those in the room, young people who will soon go into the business world (or as in the case of our childcare students, will soon be unleashed upon the tiniest of the world). How might they live in such a way that they may have a positive impact? How might they influence not only those close to them, but also those whom they only have a few hours with?
In the Gospels we have the record of only a few years of Jesus’ earthly influence. Before this record begins he spent perhaps 30 years without the prominence or the platform. How many people did he influence in that time, simply by living a life of care and love and carpentry?
The smallest moments may have the most enduring influence… there is a holiness to that, and a challenge; my prayer is that these students (and perhaps even myself) may someday have their name shouted out in a similar activity.


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