As Mitch Albom showed us a couple of years ago in his novel and movie titled “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” it’s often difficult to know exactly whom you have left a lasting impression on or had a profound effect on. We all want to make a difference, but is it possible to know if you really have on any one individual? Probably not.
So let’s try something a little easier.
The question is simple: Who has changed your life the most because of the impression or direction they have given you?
Of course, the possibilities are endless. You’ll need to consider family members, teachers, pastors, friends, mentors and neighbors. Specific lines of work are also fodder for your choice, such as librarians, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and a myriad of others. It might also be necessary to consider military personnel, elected officials, television evangelists, athletes and entertainers — though someone you’ve actually met and interacted with is a preferable choice.
What you’ll end up with, if you really give this serious thought, is a list of at least five or 10 names. Now comes the hard part: Whittling it down to one — THE one who has had the most profound effect on your life.
That’s the name I want.
Off the top of my head, I’ve been able to narrow my own list down to three — divided into three eras.
Growing up, it was definitely my father. Like most dads, he taught me everything from throwing a ball to working in the yard to building a doghouse to preparing for a date and driving a car. He also taught me organization skills that are now second nature for me. But of course, it went far beyond just that. We fished together, we camped together, we fought fires together and we worked on an ambulance together. I’ve noticed more and more that I’ve become a little like Dad, especially in the four-plus years since he passed away.
Nowadays, my choice would be my wife. She’s been my best friend for several years now and has shown me the joys of family and helped me to accept God in my life. She’s also softened me, allowing me to be much more accepting and compassionate with others — making such phrases as “Live, laugh, love” and “Don’t waste time being angry” an important daily goal. These may be traits that come with age, but Evelyn has managed to put an extra polish on them.
In between, there have been teachers and friends who have left indelible marks on my life, but the only real choice for me is my grandmother. She’d also have to be my overall choice. For the better part of 40 years, she was a constant no matter how far away she lived. She could be a tomboy and play catch with me or help me build a fort under the basement stairs, or she could take me to the kitchen and show me how to make popcorn on the stove or cut a grapefruit. But more than that, she always insisted that I have my priorities straight. From schoolwork to work around the house to any employment I had at the time, she instilled a work ethic that continues more than 10 years since her death.
So what about you? Do you have a name yet?
On Feb. 15, I want to present your stories about the people who have impacted your life. I’m even hoping I can talk with some of these people. But the first step is for you to tell me who they are. I’d really only like one name submitted per person, but if you can justify why you think two or even three people shared in changing your life the most, then convince me as best you can.
Try to keep your explanations to 100 words or less, and be sure to tell me how I might be able to contact the person you think made the biggest impression on your life. In addition, if you have a photograph that I can borrow of you with that special person, please get that to me as well. I’ll take good care of it and be sure to return it.
Send all of that, along with your name, phone number and hometown, to me in one of three ways: By regular mail at W. Curt Vincent, c/o The Robesonian, P.O. Box 1028, Lumberton, N.C., 28359 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at 739-6553.
The deadline is 5 p.m. on Feb. 2.