Thursday, January 23, 2014

25+ year old ripples

We've talked a lot about the ripple effect this week in seminary. As a follow up question I asked the girls this morning if they could see that others were being influenced by their actions. They didn't seem to hesitate very long, and both answered in the negative. I understand the response. High School is a battleground. (Which is why I'm so grateful to send them off with whatever armor I can strap on them during our 45 minutes together each morning)  I think it's important that our kids recognize the good influences they have on their peers and those they associate with just by choosing to adhere themselves to a list of standards that aren't recognized on any top ten lists of desirable traits for teens. We revisited the question How can a person's actions be like a rock that is dropped into the water?  Then a discussion. I KNOW they're making a difference. I've had conversations with adults who have talked about being changed because of their associations with these young ladies. Clearly we need to talk about this some more. I want them to know the good they are doing just by being true to themselves.
Whether good or bad, like the ripples that expand from the splash of a rock, other people can be influenced by our actions. 
I remember recently (2010) thinking back on the time I spent serving as a missionary in Colombia. Did my service really make a difference?
I honestly couldn't think that it had.
Our own son was serving as a full time missionary in Panama at the time.  While my hopes and prayers were focused on his knowing that he could make a difference there, subliminally I struggled with knowing that my time as a missionary did anything more than strengthen ME. 
If that were the case, I was nonetheless grateful for my own personal experiences, but was having some feelings of guilt about whether or not my mission had been completely self-serving.
The Lord is mindful of us, and I recognize now that He didn't want me to worry about this. It didn't take long to lose contact with most of my acquaintances in Colombia. I've managed to keep in touch with two dear friends from that country. Both were young women who loved helping the missionaries; one had served her own mission prior to my being there, and another was eagerly awaiting the day when she would reach the age that would make her eligible to serve. There was no one else--no families or individuals to link any stories I might have to validate missionary success.
Out of the blue one day, I received a request on Facebook: someone with a name that I did not recognize wanted to be my friend. I almost deleted the request, not seeing any connection to this name and feeling nervous about linking myself to someone who might not have my best interests in mind. I spent a day or two thinking about it and had the thought that this might be an attempt by someone from my missionary days to contact me. I accepted.  It turned out to be a young man. Young enough in fact, that he would not even have been born yet during the years I spent in Colombia. But his mother had.  
She had been a young wife and mother, eager to make some changes in her life that would benefit her young family. My companion and I made many visits to her home, and eagerly taught her the gospel. She was baptized during my time in her village, and then I was transferred to another part of the country. Her son was contacting me to let me know that after she was baptized, her husband then decided to be baptized. They chose to add a few more children to their family, and made a commitment to raise their children to love and cling to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This young man was the youngest of the bunch. He was writing to let me know how grateful HE was that I had taken the time to serve a mission and have an influence on his mother that then went on in a rippling effect to change the lives of his father, their growing family, and ultimately himself. He was excited to share his news that he was (at that time in 2010) preparing to serve a mission in Argentina, and was anxious for me to know how grateful he was for the effects of the gospel in his life.
It's amazing.
Don't ever underestimate the ripple effect.
The ability of a loving and kind Heavenly Father to reach out to us and let us know that we're doing fine when we're having moments of doubt.

No comments: