I was listening to a rather famous broadcast personality when the thought occurred to me: “Is the world a better place because of the influence of this person over several decades?” And then remembering that once we die we are mostly forgotten in a short time, I wondered: “Will their absence have a negative impact, or is it possible that the world will actually be a better place without them?”
These are sobering questions that make me wonder what kind of footprint I am leaving on Planet Earth. I thought about some individuals whose influence I respect and whose wisdom I miss. Every now and then I think, “I wish I could run that situation by my friend.” These are people who usually had a “big picture” perspective, were good listeners, and could see the difference between the urgent and the important. They made my world a better place.
There are times when it is important to be serious – maybe even intense. But it is obvious that our world is seriously lacking in laughter. Laughter helps people find reasonable answers instead of using physical force. It helps people lighten up and give others space on the highway instead of giving in to road rage. It stops hurtful words before they are spoken and replaces them with patience and a smile. I have been mentored by people who lived this way and left our world a better place because of their attitude.
Married couples who face potentially divisive challenges have to decide if they will get help and work through those challenges or give up and go their own way. Regardless of what our culture is teaching us, the reality is that those who not only work through their differences but develop a loving and joy-filled relationship leave a positive footprint on their kids, friends, and community. The world is a better place when the majority of homes are marked by long-term marriages that display a combination of love and trust.
History fascinates me, and I am amazed at what many of us remember about people from bygone years. It frightens me to admit how easy it is to remember negative footprints. King David of Old Testament fame was one of the most positive influential people in history. But mention his name and often you will hear about his episode with Bathsheba and the ugly fallout of that sin. Human nature causes us to remember what we often wish could be erased. David left our world a better place, but his footprint caused scars that hurt a lot of people.
We should plan our lives to be the best people we can be and put our best effort into our responsibilities. These are the marks of a good marriage, parent, employee, neighbor, and citizen. And most of us are extremely busy working at these priorities. But are we giving consistent thought to the footprint we are leaving on the lives that are products of our influence? What words or events will be remembered when our name is mentioned after we are no longer here?
Jesus is the only person who did everything correctly all the time. We have the privilege of the influence of His perfect footprint. The rest of us will leave footprints of both good and not so good choices and behaviors. Fortunately, God can use both in positive ways if we are willing to be honest and vulnerable with the people who watch us.
When our life is over and most people have forgotten us, will the world be a better place because of how we lived our life? I hope that is what all of us desire.