Monday, July 26, 2010

You Can Change the World

As I noted in an earlier post, I recently attended a surprise retirement party for my high school band director, Mr. John Rodgers. During that event we were given the opportunity to make a few remarks or to share our remembrances from our days in the Kenmore High School marching band. I remember many things. I remember the insane shaving cream fights that we had at band camp (and I still remember how to modify a can of shaving cream to shoot 20 feet). I remember selling oranges to earn enough money to go to Disney World for their tenth anniversary (though I honestly recall very little of the trip itself). I remember many events but I also remember that the band room was like a home away from home for a lot of us. We showed up as soon as we could convince someone to unlock the place and were often there in the afternoons well after school was over as well as many hours of class in-between.

For me, John Rodgers and our choir director Georgia Thomas were trusted adults who modeled leadership, passion for music, respect, humility and many other things. At our party, I noted that though there were perhaps a hundred of us gathered that evening, our numbers are indeed far more than that, we are indeed legion. Each year that I was in band we had something close to one hundred musicians carrying instruments along with many more majorettes, rifle girls, and flags (and Bill Dobbs, fellow Baritone player, as our Cardinal mascot). Over the years that John Rodgers was at Kenmore he invested himself in the lives of many hundreds of students, perhaps thousands. As we gathered that evening it was apparent that time had not stood still, we are all older, many of us have married and have children and now many of our children are inheriting our love of music.

As I shared, I concluded that in his own humble way, John Rodgers accomplished what people in science and politics and every other discipline dream of doing, he changed the world. John Rodgers changed the world but so did Georgia Thomas and so do teachers around the world every single day. We all remember these people because they changed us, they modeled life for us, they inspired us and they ignited a passion within us whether it was for music, or literature, or history or whatever.

I cannot ever thank John Rodgers or Georgia Thomas or Bill Muse, or any of my teachers enough for the gifts that they gave me…

…but there is something that I can do.

In the lives of every human being we are given the opportunity to invest in the lives of others. We are all given the chance to invest in something that reaches beyond the boundaries of today or this week’s paycheck. If we are to honor the people that invested their lives in us then we must answer the call to invest in others.

For me, I was compelled, over time, to teach others about the unimaginable gift of Jesus Christ and to expend my energies helping others spiritually as well as in other ways. For you it may not be John Rodgers, but today I ask that you remember who it was that influenced and inspired you. Maybe it was a teacher, a pastor, a coach, a university professor or it could be a parent, a grandparent, a police officer or even a janitor. Whoever it was for you, I hope that you will use that memory to drive you to invest in another generation.

If you’re a teacher, you can allow that memory to reinvigorate you and to rekindle your passion, but even if you’re not in a career where this is easy there are still lots of options. Choose someone who can benefit from your accumulated knowledge and experience and offer to mentor them. Instead of criticizing their youth and inexperience, take the time to teach them a better way (and listen for what they have to offer you as well). Volunteer in your community. Every ball field needs volunteer coaches and referees. Every scout troop that I’ve ever seen can always use anyone with a spare hour or two. Churches and synagogues and schools and soup kitchens everywhere need compassionate volunteers with a heart to serve others. Whatever it is, find a way to give back (or pay forward) the amazing gifts that you’ve been given. You can make a difference. You can make the world a better place.

Get out there and change the world.

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