I’ve never been in an air traffic control tower, but have seen videos of how radar is used for tracking incoming airplanes. A line sweeps around the screen and blips briefly illuminate to reveal the presence of aircraft in the vicinity. These blips quickly disappear, usually to reappear with the next sweep of the radar screen.
Contrast that with pebbles thrown into a pond. After striking the pond surface, the pebbles disappear below the surface, but in their wake a series of ripples radiate from point of impact. Before it disappears, the pebble’s presence is “memorialized” as the ripples spread outward.
The latter, I believe, can represent the impact of our lives. Viewed within the context of many thousands of years of human existence – not to mention the scope of eternity – a single life may seem nothing more than a pebble falling into a pond, never to be seen again. But the ripples it causes show the impact of that life, one that could continue indefinitely.
Recently I wrote about my longtime friend Dave Stoddard, a larger-than-life individual whose time on earth ended unexpectedly at the age of 60. He spent much of his life investing in the lives of others – mentoring, coaching, teaching, encouraging, challenging, and sometimes chastising, all aimed at helping them to develop personally and professionally to reach their fullest potential. While Dave’s life might have appeared to some as a “blip” on a chronological radar screen, all who knew him realize his life was like the ripple that continues to radiate wider and wider.
At the visitation time and memorial service, several hundred men and women gathered to celebrate Dave’s life, share stories about him, and convey how he had touched their own lives. Many of them expressed their desire to have a similar impact on other people.
When Dave founded Leaders Legacy in 2000, he incorporated an image of ripples into the logo. This seems all the more appropriate today. He and I often talked about a leader’s true impact not being what happens while he or she is on the scene, but what happens after they leave. Will the leader’s impact look like a blip…or an ever-widening ripple?
The best possible example of this is Jesus Christ, who was the guiding force in Dave’s life. During His lifetime, Jesus was a novelty to many, a curiosity people followed just to see what He would do next. When His earthly days were over, Jesus left behind only a small, rag-tag band of men that hardly looked like world-changers. Yet 2,000 years later, Christ followers have multiplied, millions upon millions around the world.
God promises we, too, can have a profound, eternal impact on the lives of people around us. In Isaiah 43:4 the Lord states, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.” When we willingly and sacrificially give from our lives for the benefit of others, God will reward our faithfulness.
In John 15, Jesus used the analogy of a grapevine to explain the mission He had for His followers. As He concluded, Jesus explained, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that remains” (John 15:16).
There are many endeavors and enterprises we can engage in and enjoy, but their impact will be brief. Even celebrated entertainers, athletes, business and civic leaders that receive much media attention are quickly forgotten when their day in the spotlight has ended. They may have achieved their 15 minutes of fame, but many had little long-lasting impact on the world around them.
They’re like shooting stars, sighted and then forgotten as they disappear in the evening sky. God’s desire for our lives, however, is to be more like the ripple in a pond, continuing to widen long after the pebble that started it has vanished from view.
If you were to assess your life to this point, would you say it’s more likely to produce a blip – or a long-lasting ripple?
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.