“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
It was the lines of her letter that brought tears to my eyes. Her words, “I couldn’t have done it without you,” filled me with happiness. But it was also the name at the end – the one whose story I was part of – that made everything worth it.
This was a letter from a high school senior. Last semester, she was struggling – in more ways than one – and was unlikely to graduate. I had offered to work with her, after seeing her struggle, to make sure she did. She was desperate and wanted help.
Lately, I’ve been wrestling with this idea of impacting lives for a season. Season, tide, period, age, etc. – all have a beginning and an end. No matter how distinct or blurred those points may be, they all move on at some point.
I think that all of us have opportunities where we can impact someone for a season. It’s a time where we can pour into people when they need us the most. Seasons develop, peak and then regress and slowly blend into the next. We need to wake up and realize the time that we have with these individuals is purposeful and imperative.
Working with students, my seasons seem to become more regimented to the course of a school year. Yet I need to ask myself: “What do I want them to remember? What can I give them while they’re in my life? How will they remember me?”
When we understand the purpose behind what we’re doing, it is likely that our role will be a powerful one.
Seasons come in many different ways. Investing in one person never looks the same as the next, and for myself, I can fall into the “cookie cutter” death trap. It’s a trap that often starts with good intentions, but can lead to a suffocation of the other person.
Those who know me realize that I am a very relational type of person. Sometimes, I struggle with this idea of letting a season pass. If I’ve worked hard and poured myself into someone, how can I simply watch him or her walk away? But I have come to realize that sometimes letting go opens you up so that you can help someone else.
Reggie Joiner, author of “Lead Small,” introduced a few concepts that I’ve adapted to this idea of investing in seasons. They are: Be present; make it personal; and move them out.
With the time we have with someone else – no matter how long – we should always try to show up, be real and prepare them for the next season of their life.
We all impact someone every day. It may be a family member, a friend or a complete stranger. But our role is important, no matter how big or small it might be.
I may not be able to reach all high school seniors, but I reached one. You can reach others, too. What will you do for them? How will you impact their lives? Because it’s what we do for those few that will lead to the potential of doing more.
The bigger picture is there. We just need to look for it.