Throughout our lives, we meet a lot of people. They enter and exit our lives at different times and for different reasons. Each one of these individuals has a role in the story we call our life. Some may have a minor role, appearing for a few pages, maybe a chapter or two. Others take on a larger part, maybe even sticking around for half the story or more. Regardless of how much they feature, each one of them helps to shape our lives, helps us to learn and to grow. Influence and impact each contribute to our lives through others that we meet along the journey.
The first people to have an influence on us are our parents and families. From the moment we enter this world, they are the ones who raise us, who teach us important life lessons, and who help us to grow to one day do the same for our own children. As we progress through our lives, our family tend to have the greatest influence on the person we become. Be it our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins, we form connections with them. We often engage in discussions with them that may indeed shape our own perspectives, and they might just help us to learn more about ourselves and how to navigate the journey of life.
As we write new chapters in our lives, we begin to interact with people outside of our families. We start making friends, some of whom will remain a part of our lives for years and decades to come, others exiting stage left or fading into the background after joining our journey for a shorter interval. Sometimes, we may meet people who take a different path to us, but who re-enter our life a few years later when their path converges with our own. These people can have an incredible impact on our lives. In fact, sometimes it is these people who we wish we got to know earlier.
Like any good story, we all meet people who take on the role of a mentor in our life. They could be teachers, coaches, family friends, sometimes even certain family members, etc. They guide us in navigating challenges in our lives and help us soar to new heights. Often there will be multiple mentors who impart their wisdom upon us throughout our lifetime, and it is up to us to use this wisdom to lead a fulfilled life.
But just like those we meet have an impact on our lives, we can also have an impact on theirs. In connecting with our family and friends, in offering our own perspectives, we may be able to help them to uncover things they were yet to realise about themselves and the lives they lead. We might introduce them to something that we can connect more over. We might be able to help them through their own challenges, their own hardships, something that could strengthen our bonds.
We can also have an impact on those who play the parts of mentors in our lives. For example, as students, we learn from our teachers, but teachers can also learn from their students. I’ll give you an example from my own life. In teaching Scripture each week, I always go in with a lesson prepared, ready to ensure my students learn something that they can apply to their own lives. But the incredible thing is when, throughout the course of some lessons I have taught, they provide answers or bring up points that I never would have thought of, and thus I learn from them. Teaching/learning is, at least to some degree, a two-way process: They learn from you, and you learn from them. In addition, students I have taught engage in the lesson, and always seem happy to be there, even thanking me at the end of lessons. These moments all have a sincere impact on me in that I am grateful to be able to share my faith with them and that I am making an impact on their lives by doing so.
I mentioned towards the beginning of this piece that people enter and exit our lives. Reflecting upon this notion, I considered how this is particularly true of friends we have, and how our friend groups can change as we grow. Again, I’ll take from my own experience thus far to demonstrate this point. When I was in primary school, the friends I had changed a few times. I think the first solid friendship I formed came about when I was in Year 3. That friendship has continued throughout primary school, high school, and beyond. I had other friends in primary school who I stuck by for a few years, however, when we all reached high school, we drifted apart and formed new friend groups. Again, I met many people throughout high school that I formed connections with to varying degrees, however, I only remained close with three (one being the aforementioned friend from my primary school days) after graduating from high school. That being said, there have since been other people from my high school days that have re-entered my life, or indeed entered it in the sense that I didn’t really know them before. One of these connections that formed has had a profound impact on my life for the better. As I said before, it is these people, those whose path is different to ours but then later converges with our own, who we wish we got to know earlier. The impact others can have on our lives, even when we have known them only for a short time, is incredible.
As we write the story of our lives, we will find that each chapter brings with it an array of characters, some old, some new. They will impact our lives in different ways, yet no matter what, will remain a part of the story that we create for ourselves. But it is important to remember that, although there are many noteworthy people in our stories from the beginning, some of the most important ones will come later on, sometimes when we least expect it.