Your life, like mine, is a series of interwoven relationships. Some are (were) wonderful, life-giving experiences and some are (were) absolutely horrible, but all worked together to make us who we are today.
If it wasn’t for the relationship my mother had with my father (they were married over 60 years) I wouldn’t be here at all. My mother helped me survive my infancy, my father bailed me out of several tough situations, my older brother taught me things I needed to know (and some I didn’t need to know), and my wife helps me every day to learn what it means to be a man/husband/father. Then there is everyone else in my little world: my children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, business associates, and on and on and on, each having their influence on me.
Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people along the way picked me up when I fell down, kicked me in the pants when I needed it, chided me, encouraged me, forgave me, comforted me, calmed me, awakened me, insulted me, complimented me, taught me, listened to me, cried with me, laughed with me, loved me, hated me, etc. Because I’m over 60 years old I could make a long list of the people who helped form me into the person I am today. And it’s not over as I’m not yet all that I can be.
But life isn’t just about the people who influence us it’s also about the people we influence.
Leo Buscaglia in the forward of his book Loving Each Other published first in the early 1980s tells the fable of a young girl who is walking though a meadow when she sees a butterfly impaled upon a thorn. Very carefully she releases it and the butterfly starts to fly away. Then it comes back and changes into a beautiful good fairy.
“For your kindness,” she tells the little girl, “I will grant you your fondest wish.”
The little girl thinks for a moment and replies, “I want to be happy.” The fairy leans forward and whispers in her ear and then suddenly vanishes.
As the girl grew, no one in the land was happier than she. Whenever anyone asked her for the secret of happiness, she would only smile and say, “I listened to a good fairy.”
As she grew quite old, the neighbors were afraid the fabulous secret might die with her. “Tell us, please,” they begged, “tell us what the fairy said.” The now lovely old lady simply smiled and said, “She told me that everyone, no matter how secure they seemed, had need of me.” Buscaglia concludes the story with this five-word line: We all need each other.
That means someone needs you and me! Imagine that!
Sure, others have entered out lives for a second, or a season, or a lifetime, but we have also entered their lives. Not only are others impacting us, at the very same time we are impacting others for good or ill.
I can celebrate or denigrate what others have done for me or to me. But what have I done for others? Am I one who encourages, loves, cheers, etc., or am I a person to be avoided? Remember, life isn’t just about the people who influence us it’s also about the people we influence.
So here’s your kick in the pants: Someone needs you today. Someone needs your love, your encouragement, or maybe just your presence. So get to work on those relationships. Value the people closest to you. Express appreciation, pat someone on the back, offer a word of affirmation, but do something to improve the quality of those interweaving relationships that make life worth living. There are a lot of butterflies out there impaled on thorns. You and I can help set them free.