Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thinking About People

I've been thinking about people. Part of that concerns some specific people, and some relates to people in general. I think it's because as I get older, I get more sentimental. Even that is more hereditary than you might think. My male relatives on my mother's side of the family are notorious for edgy emotions and the ability to cry at emotionally sensitive times. I have a cousin who heads up our annual family reunion who can't get through the fun stuff of welcoming everyone and dispensing the door prizes without crying at least once. We love him for doing that. But that sentimentality is part of what makes me think about people.

I make no apologies for claiming It's A Wonderful Life as my all-time favorite movie (go ahead and click the link and watch the movie!). Then again, just about all my favorite movies and books are those about people, where characters are the life of the work. Among my favorite authors is Maeve Binchy, whose books are a tangle of characters much like real life. Read her books and you've become part of an Irish village, part of a family, friends with lovable people. Or, if you've never watched the movie, King's Row, you've missed a great movie. But I digress.

Want to know why I think It's A Wonderful Life is so great? Because the premise of the movie is that every person makes an impact on the world of which he or she is a part. George Bailey gets the opportunity to see what would have happened had he never lived. George, quite without knowing it, had made a significantly positive impact on the lives of many people. Without him, things would have been very bad indeed. He never knew, until his personal angel arrived to show him, that his life mattered at all.

Now, there are at least two basic ways to think about this premise. The most obvious is to consider the impact of one's own life on the world. What would the world have been without you? That's pretty heavy, but it's worth considering. The other way to think about this idea is not so obvious. What would your life have been without the other people in it? Yes, you impact your world, but other people impact you.

No wonder God has a habit of working in and through people. Again and again in the Bible, we're introduced to people through whom God worked to impact the world in positive ways. All you have to do is name a few and you see this truth vividly. Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Mary, Paul. You get the idea. Not everybody is chosen to be a key player in some great work of God, but all of us are part of God's work. But do you have to have a starring role or do even background actors have a role to play?

If other people impact your life, then it's good not only to know that, but know that the impact might either be good or bad, positive or negative. We should want to magnify the impact of some people and minimize the impact of others. Of course, if you know that you are impacting other people, you might want to consider the kind of impact you're having.

What difference have you made in another person's life? Do you know? Do you care? Here's what I believe: you and I are here for the specific purpose of impacting the people around us. That's a great responsibility. It's also something for which to be very thankful.

(C) 2008, Dr. Bill Denton