Children are always formed by those a step or two ahead of them. Young ones watch their brothers and sisters and the friends these older ones bring home. They listen, notice, and observe uncles, aunts, and neighbors. They copy, learn, react. They take everything in. Their values, attitudes, and theology are being molded. Their spirits are lifted or deflated.
On a particular occasion years ago I met several people who had important influences on my life. None had any idea that they had played a valued role in my development. Most of them were men (some were women) who had been nice to me when I was young. Each of them was well past retirement age. I knew them before I was a teenager; back then, they must have been in their early twenties.
As might be expected, I had made only enough of an impression on them to give them a vague memory of me. But, to me, they are still unforgettable characters — my heroes.
One was surprised to learn that I had spent the day with him when the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II, though he did remember exactly where he had been. On August 14,1945, his cattle truck a long way from home had burned out a wheel bearing. He had spent much of that day working on the truck at the livestock-sale barn where it had happened. News of VJ Day came through on the radio in the truck cab.
While he had no recall of my being there, the day is clear in my memory. It was one of many wonderful days on which he had invited me to enjoy the high adventure of riding with him in his big sixteen-wheeler.
It dawned on me what a character-shaping effect we can have on other people's children. My childhood environment was thoroughly seasoned with kind, attentive folks from outside my family. Their natures were inclusive. They drew people in. They made sure young ones were noticed, nurtured—and nourished too.
This is what the Body of Christ is about—caring for each other's children, assisting with their rearing and nurturing. The word of encouragement, of interest shown, advice offered to family members not our own, is a wonderful responsibility, not just a chance bonus for some.
Do you have some similar stories to share? Write to us at ShowUp@careandkindness.org or add a comment on our Facebook page.