Today my family and I spent the day in Norfolk, Nebraska. This is a small-ish community in the north east part of the state. My mom was born and raised on a dairy farm there. We had lunch, played bingo, a family tradition, and visited with extended family we don’t get to see too often. It was a wonderful day.
The highlight for sure, was visiting with my great, great Aunt Helen, who is currently living in a nursing home, and dealing with lots of health problems that come very natural to a woman who has lived as long as she has. My Aunt Helen is one of those people that just warms your soul. She is old, and doesn’t move well, if at all. She forgets things, and repeats herself often, but when she looks you in the eyes, you feel as though she is peering into your soul, warming you from the inside out.
About 10 years ago, my mom asked me for a favor. She said,
“Hey, Aunt Helen is flying in this afternoon, and I need someone to pick her up from the airport.”
Of course, I said yes, to helping my mom out, and went to the airport, picked her up, and drove home… I didn’t think a lot of it, other than that she was pleasant, and I enjoyed the stolen time with a relative I rarely got to see. She however was changed forever by our interaction. A few days later, my mom called me, and said,
“Jake, I don’t know what you did, but Aunt Helen won’t stop talking about you.”
Apparently she just kept saying,
“Oh, Jake, what an amazing young man.”
I am not telling this story to toot my own horn, I am getting somewhere…
Today, when we walked into the room, she looked at me, as though she had never met me before. I introduced her to my wife, and my kids, told them their ages, and she seemed thankful to have people visiting her, but clearly didn’t remember me.
Until she did.
I was sitting in a chair next to her, and she grabbed my hand, pulled me close, and said,
Her eyes lit up, she remembered me. She remembered me from our short interaction a decade ago.
She went on to tell me every detail of that day 10 years ago, when I picked her up from the airport, as if she was reminiscing with an old friend about that time she met a celebrity.
She grasped my hand tightly, she spoke softly, and she pulled me in close. She had a gleam in her eye that was so full of life, it was hard for me to believe I was speaking to a woman who’s days are coming to an end. It was surreal, it was even divine.
What really got me thinking, and the reason I am telling this story on day 24 of my Advent reflections is simple.
We are unaware of the impact we can have on the people around us. Just by caring.
advent gift #24…
The gift of impact…
One of the most powerful things about Jesus coming to earth, is that He planned to grow up, do some cool things, show us what it really looks like to be human, and then leave. What is most amazing about this, is that in His leaving, His desire was that you and I might become the vessels that would keep His life, His values, His gospel alive and transformational on this earth.
He chose you for impact.
He gave you His heart for people and longs to release you into a life of empowering others. He wants to use you to show the world how much HE loves them, to convey the value He holds for every human in a way that we all might accept it, and shift our course. He wants you to see every moment, every breath, every look and every action as an opportunity to pour the grace of Jesus into the life of the one we are face to face with in that moment.
Here’s the thing… like I was on that fateful day at the airport, we are often so oblivious to the impact, positive or negative, we can and do have on the people we interact with day in and day out. I didn’t know it, but just showing up, looking my Aunt Helen in the eyes, and showing her I loved her, when I didn’t really need to, changed her life. It gave her a memory that would carry her through long, hard days. I didn’t know I was doing anything, so I really can’t take credit for anything here, but I do want you to see something profound from this story.
Every interaction you have, just might change someones life. It might be the memory that gets them through a really hard time. It might be the thing that reminds them of their worth when the rest of the world is telling them they are worthless. What you do matters. Because Jesus decided it should. The only question remaining is, what will you do with it…
Today, while in Aunt Helen’s room, after telling my wife she is the most beautiful woman she has ever seen, my son how handsome he is, and my daughters how precious they are, toward the end of our visit, she grabbed my hand and pulled me close. She pulled me closer than is comfortable for nearly any social interaction. Our foreheads are touching and her eyes are locked on mine (See the picture above). She whispers to me… “Oh Jake, will you pray for me…”
Of course I said yes, and did, but it wasn’t just any prayer. It was profound in my life. I don’t know if Aunt Helen knew it, but she was speaking worth into me. She was telling me that I am enough. She was telling me that I am a child of God, called for His purpose and positioned for impact.
Today, Aunt Helen was for me, a tangible expression of the Christmas Story, and its intended impact on the world.
Know this today… everything you do matters. You can be an agent of hope, life and transformation, or not, it is entirely up to you. But the best way to honor our Savior during the season of His birth is to live a life of impact that someone might remember 10 years from now.
I love you all… Merry Christmas… thanks for coming along with me on this journey….