I am still thinking about the ripples. That is, the concept that the things we say and do today can have a far reaching impact on those around us, even those who come after us. There is a sense in which we are all an amalgamation of the influences around us.
Allow me to mix metaphors. I am reminded of President Obama’s remarks on the campaign trail in 2012, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen… When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.” Obama was talking about people who build businesses or have financial success, and interdependence between individuals and economic and social systems. While it became a controversial talking point in the 2012 election campaign, the sentiments didn’t originate with President Obama or Elizabeth Warren before him. And I don’t think the concept is applicable exclusively or even primarily to business and economy.
This doesn’t rob anyone of us of our own personhood. In fact, it is a key part of what makes each and everyone of us unique. Hundreds of people in the town I grew up in have had Mrs. Davidson for their high school English teacher. But not all of them took her encouragement to form a regular writing habit so seriously. My brother and my sister grew up with the same mom and dad that I did. But I picked up very little of my dad’s knack for being a handyman. My brother on the other hand, has remolded several houses. My sister My sister is the spitting image of our mom when she was young. But I see that she picked up more of my dad’s upbeat optimism than my brother and I did. And while all three of us have a “spiritual journey” that starts with the influence of my mom’s deep faith, I seem to have picked up the most on my mom’s penchant for framing every single thing I talk about in religious terms.
In a very real way, for better and for worse, I am the product of Sonny and Maria, Jim and Brenda, Mrs. Davidson, various pastors and professors, friends who were in my life for only a season and those few I have managed to keep in contact with for a lifetime. I am a product of my first heartbreak, my first marriage and my beautiful partnership with Amanda. I am the music I have listened to, the poets I have read, the ones I have heard perform live, the kids who picked on me in high school and peers I stayed up all night drinking beer and talking with in seminary. And I am also, so much more.
I want to glean the absolute best stuff that I can from this wide and varied stream of influence. And I want to what I can to be the best me that I can be for my son and my daughter. I want to do my small part to leave this world a better place than I found it.
I don’t think I am done yet, reflecting on the ripples.