Thursday, April 4, 2013

What kind of influence am I?

The other day I was driving home from work along a stretch of road that has a center lane designed to be a turn lane. The thing is, I'm pretty sure it's illegal for cars to get into that lane when there is still a quarter mile until the intersection of the desired turn. Regardless, I observed a car that got into the turn lane way early in order to bypass the longer stream of traffic. Soon after that first car did it, there went another car following along, and then another and another. I think I observed at least five cars that were influenced by that first driver's action.

My sister was telling me about an adventure she had taking her girls downtown to story time at the library. She had trouble finding a place to park in the convenient garage, so she had to park on the street. After realizing that she didn't have enough change to pay the meter for the entire time needed, they ended up walking for several blocks around the downtown area to find a place to get some change, then had to double back to the car to feed the meter and then walk again to the library. If you've ever walked around a lot with preschoolers, you know that dawdling always happens and sometimes whining and crying can be the end result. Jeanette saw that this was a possible outcome during their adventure, so she decided to adjust her own attitude and keep her voice and demeanor upbeat and see how it influenced the girls. Thankfully, it worked and it turned out to be a fun morning for the three of them. When my sister was telling me the story, she made the comment of how it's kind of scary (or eye-opening) how much of an influence her attitude has on the girls and their behavior.

We all have a great deal of influence on those around us, whether we realize it or want the responsibility or not. Family members, co-workers, friends, even those who casually observe us out in public (or on the road) are heavily influenced by our attitude, our behavior, our words and our mood. It makes me stop and think, "What kind of influence am I?"

Last week, Daniel and I were getting gas in my car at the local Kroger. After I finished pumping the gas and was about to get into my car, a man parked on the other side of the pump approached me asking for some money for gas. Since Daniel was there with me, I decided to go to the attendant and pay for $10 worth of gas for the man and his family. I talked to Daniel about what I had done and why and we talked about ways that we can safely help people in situations like that.

The very next night, Daniel needed for me to come with him to get gas in his car so that I could load money onto his Kroger gift card. After Daniel finished pumping the gas and was about to get back in the car, a different man approached him and asked if he could spare any money. Daniel told him that he only had a little cash, but that he could give him a couple of dollars. Daniel had left his wallet in the car, so he opened the door to get it and gave me a look that told me that he had been influenced by my actions the night before.

I don't tell these stories to put the spotlight on myself or to judge others. I only hope and pray that our actions influenced the people who needed help and that they will someday be able to help someone else who is in need. We have no way of knowing if either of those people make it their occupation to panhandle at local gas stations, but even if they do, I pray that our kindness to them will be something that they remember.

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