Understanding the influence we have

Published 6:20pm Monday, July 29, 2013

I felt like Tom Sawyer.

I spent a recent weekend in Birmingham to do a number of things, including a make-up visit to IHOP.

My grandson, Brooks Bennett, 7, loves Saturday morning pancakes, as apparently do a lot of children in the city. I told him on our visits I see a lot of kids and a lot of “old people,” whom I gather are grandparents like me. Anyway, the last time we planned a trip Brooks was confined to the house with a fever.

His mother mentioned that her van was trashed and she hated to drive it to the family outing they’d planned later that day. I promised we’d try to get back in time to vacuum the van. And we did.

While working, Brooks and his brother, Read, 3, asked if they could help. That’s when I thought of Aunt Polly punishing Tom by making him paint the picket fence. His friends came by to mock, but he insisted it was skilled work that not everyone could do. Eventually his friends begged Tom to let them do the job.

The three of us got the van cleaned. I was happy to point out to the boys the ancillary joy of finding coins for their pockets and lost sunglasses under the seats!

I told their dad he should be grateful that I taught his boys some good habits.

I’ve been thinking all week about the influence we have.

Sometimes our influence is positive and sometimes not. Knowing that others are observing, including some very impressionable children, should motivate us to walk the walk.

The apostle Paul was bold enough to tell his Philippians friends, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

Paul wasn’t being egotistical, but practical. The Philippians lived in a pagan Greek society with few role models for Christian conduct. The writer tried his best to demonstrate proper conduct for these new believers so they could live as God intended.

Whereas none of us would make Paul’s claim today, it’s a good reminder of the responsibility we all have to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Another child, Whitney, stopped me in church some years ago with an accusation.

“Preacher,” she said, “we passed you last week on the road and you weren’t wearing your seat belt.”

I was busted. And speechless!

Ever since that day I’ve thought about Whitney when getting in the car. I buckle up. And I try to walk a little straighter, too.

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