We had unfinished business to wrap up, so I wasn’t surprised to see my friend today. I was surprised when he talked instead about a personal project.
“We got them out of storage on Saturday, Paul. Man, they were filthy!”
I looked quizzically at him. He grinned as he realized I was in the dark about what had been in storage.
“I went two whole miles yesterday! Two!”
Again, the look of utter stupidity on my face gave the impetus for him to keep going.
“It’s the first time we’ve had the bikes out in over a year!”
The fog lifting, I came to life and began to understand his former comments. He had gotten his bicycle out, cleaned it up, and ridden it for a couple of miles. I was still a bit bewildered about why he was so animated regarding the accomplishment, but I thought I should play along and see if all would be revealed as we talked.
The middle-aged man turned to his friend who had come through the door with him and explained to him (and, unwittingly, to me).
“When I was in here on Saturday, Paul told me about his recent quest to get healthy. He told me he was hoping to ride about ten miles or so that afternoon. I decided if he could do ten, I could do two. I was puffing, but I did it!”
His buddy was obviously impressed, slapping him on the shoulder and exclaiming good naturedly, “Way to go, man!”
I added my praise, but mentally, I was still assessing the situation. I was the one who had ridden over ten miles. Why was he getting the praise for his two measly miles? But, even as my selfish spirit was grappling with that inequity, my heart was beginning to grasp two truths.
|“Tandem” by Ramon Casas|
First: Those two miles were two miles more than my friend had ridden in over a year! That was something to celebrate, if only in a small way.
Second: I had something to do with that accomplishment! He had come to report the good news to me, recognizing my part in it.
The selfish thoughts faded quickly into the jumble of my thoughts, as the magnitude of what was happening became apparent almost immediately. I have talked many times about wanting to influence people around me to do good things, but this was almost mind boggling in its simplicity.
Two days ago, I mentioned to him that I was planning an activity and gave a sketchy background of what was driving me to participate in the endeavor. I talked about losing weight and feeling better, not with the intent of convincing him, but simply to share the joy that has come along with the life change.
Today, he reported he had acted on the basis of that casual conversation, announcing further that he intends to keep going. Time will tell if he is able to follow through. I’ll keep checking on his progress.
The specific subject of fitness has almost nothing to do with the reality of what I learned today, though. That reality is a lesson I believed I already knew. It was actually just the day before I spoke with this man about my lifestyle change that I talked with another friend about what I have always believed was my purpose in life. Almost with thinking, I said the words.
“I believe every person who comes through that door enters for a reason. It’s not just to make a purchase, either. I hope that I can influence them for good. I almost think it’s a ministry of sorts.”
Those words have come from my mouth before. I’ll say them again.
I don’t think I’ll say them with the same flippant attitude.
You have to understand the lesson I learned today. It’s not just when I think about influencing people that I do it. They are influenced by every word that comes from my mouth.
Can I just stop there and let that sink in for a moment?
Every word–and every act.
Need another moment?
I am ecstatic that my friend went cycling. I am amazed when some little tip I give to a customer leads them to develop a skill that I’ve never been able to master. I hope that every positive thing I’ve ever said yields fruit in the life of the person to whom it was uttered.
I wonder though–what about the excuses I’ve made for poor behavior? What about the snippy comments I’ve made behind people’s back to someone standing by? How about that time I lost my temper completely and gave that fellow a piece of my mind?
I wonder, do those things influence folks too?
I don’t have to answer that, do I? For some reason, my mind jumps to the name of the best-selling book, written nearly eighty years ago by Dale Carnegie, entitled “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I haven’t read the book, but the title itself gives plenty of food for thought.
I want to win friends. I also want to influence people–to do good. My problem is that I frequently make enemies and influence people to anger, or to cheat, or to lie. Every word and every act, whether good or evil, wins and influences. I don’t get to choose which ones have an influence. They all do.
What I get to choose is how to act. What I get to choose is how to speak.
I can’t help but remember the old television ads for the investment firm, now defunct, E F Hutton. The ads all finished with the statement, “When E F Hutton speaks, people listen.”
What I’m saying here is that when I speak, people listen.
When you speak, people listen.
They act on what we say every day.
I wonder, will tomorrow bring another joyful revelation of positive influence for me? Or possibly, the realization that a life has been ruined by words I said?
If I turn and face the years past, I can point to situations where, over and over, I wielded my influence for selfish, wicked reasons. I cringe at the thought and the prospect that one day I may learn of the disaster wrought by my words and actions.
But, I’m reminded that there is One who influenced the world permanently for good by His entire life, and then by His death. That influence covers mine today. Grace and forgiveness for the past are found as His influence takes effect. It will suffice.
Once again, I turn to the future. Tomorrow is a new day, with nothing written on its clean page.
There is still work to do. You’re coming too, aren’t you?
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
(James 4:17 ~ NIV)
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”
(Stephen King ~ American author)