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Everyone has influence

By Tonya Swindell

Within the past couple of weeks, I learned that three people I knew passed away. Even though I was familiar with my acquaintances to varying degrees, each of them impacted my life in some way. Awareness of their deaths reminded me that every person has influence or potential to make a lasting impression.

On June 3, I attended the wake of a former co-worker. Although my friend and I worked in different departments, we developed a lasting relationship. And my life was not the only one she touched. So many people showed up for my friend’s wake that many of us waited in line for close to three hours so that we could pay our respects. Even though some attendees may have viewed the event as a solemn occasion worthy of sadness, I saw it as peaceful, joyful and celebratory.

As friends, family and people from the community trailed slowly through a line that filled the funeral home, we made the most of our time together. People recalled happy memories, caught up on current happenings and viewed our loved one’s pictures as they scrolled across multiple television screens. My time at the wake felt even more special because I spent it with two former co-workers whom I love and rarely get to see.

Someone told me they imagined that if my deceased friend was present, she would have been running around and speaking to everyone. In my mind, she would have stepped up to every individual with a huge smile, energetic conversation and a welcoming hug. After greeting my friend’s family and exiting the building, I learned that another former co-worker passed away recently.

When I heard about her death, I thought of our interactions. Whenever I visited the hospital to check in for a yearly appointment, she greeted me warmly and even talked about getting together when time allowed. Her pleasant voice, beauty, poise, and gentle mannerisms will long be remembered.

The third person who passed away was someone I was acquainted with from a distance. I saw him occasionally over the years, but never really got to know him due to various circumstances. Although I could tell he experienced personal struggles, my knowledge of what he went through was very limited.

After the man’s death, I viewed his life from a different perspective. I considered how everyone has influence and potential to impact others. And every step we make toward establishing relationships, building friendships and tightening bonds can leave an indelible imprint on the hearts of people.

American poet and author Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As a result of influence, we have potential to leave an impression on others’ hearts that lasts long after we’re gone. And I’m thankful for people who have impacted my life and continue to do so through their gift of influence.

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for www.inspirenewlife.org and a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School (KBES.com). She can be reached at 1brightot@gmail.com.