Have you ever taken the time to think about the various people who have come into and gone out of your life yet who have made a lasting impression? It might have been a roommate you had for a few semesters or a grocery clerk with whom you chatted briefly each week for a several years. People can have an impact on us even if we don’t share a close relationship.
One such person for me was a man who walked with his wife almost daily through our neighborhood many years ago. When his wife became ill, he would either walk or ride his bike alone. We would stop and talk just a little. He always greeted us with eagerness and the most cheerful countenance. Some might say he had a twinkle in his eyes.
Mr. Speight loved to talk about his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His involvement in church was also an important topic. One day I asked him about what kind of work he had done in his life. Another day the conversation was about people speaking respectfully. He was a “salt-of-the-earth” kind of man. Maybe over a year ago, after falling on one of his walks, his family convinced him that he shouldn’t walk alone. Every now and then we saw him in his yard. He told us that his children insisted on taking over the lawn care and many other responsibilities. He was obviously proud of their concern.
On our walk Monday we saw a white wreath on Mr. Speight’s door. His obituary was simple. He was a church member. He was a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. Relationships were of the highest value. He had no fancy titles.
Once I heard a speaker tell the story of an African-American pastor who was preaching to some students who were about to graduate. The minister chose surprising words for that occasion. It went something like this. “Children, you are going to die! One of these days the hearse is going to take you to the cemetery, drop you in a hole and everyone’s going back to the church to eat potato salad. When you were born, you were crying and everyone else was happy. Here is the question. When you die, will you be the only happy one with everyone else crying? The answer depends upon whether you lived to get titles or testimonies.”
The preacher started in Genesis and swept through the Bible in five minutes. “There was Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. That’s a good title. Then there was Moses. Pharoah had the title but Moses had the testimony. There was Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Good title. Then there was Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar had a title but Daniel had a testimony. There was Jezebel, the queen. Good title. Then there was Elisha. Jezebel had the title but Elisha had the testimony.”
What will you leave behind? Will it merely be a list of titles- president of this or Doctor or Reverend or winner of such-and-such award? Or will those who knew you speak of your testimony? May God ultimately say to each of us words like Jesus relayed in the parable of the talents. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”(Matthew 25:21)