Points to Ponder: You're history
Points to Ponder
Our sixth grader has procrastinated on her history project; step one being, choose your topic. So how does she decide from a list of things that makes her cringe in anticipation of the drudgery ahead? I suggested two categories: events (e.g. Lincoln-Douglas debates) or persons (e.g. Anna Howard Shaw). Events are like stories with multiple characters and actions. But she seemed to light up to the persons category. I explained that when you study the life of a person, you're meeting someone new. What made him/her into the person they became? What wisdom in words or deeds does this person convey to you today that will one day come to mind when you need a different perspective on something?
Some of the most interesting people I've met were dead when I met them. It's one of the privileges I've had as a pastor, to conduct the funeral for someone I never knew. The deceased person's life is literally history. When the family comes to me, I begin to research; interviewing loved ones, reading things written by or about the person, and asking questions that may seem trivial or unrelated to the planning of a proper memorial service. But it's how I meet that person.
Our daughter thinks I am a bit strange because I prefer conducting funerals over weddings. Weddings have their place and they are usually joyful experiences. But people are more attentive to substantive matters at a funeral. And I grow as a person because of the lessons I learn from the life of the one who has passed. I learn wonderful stories and lessons from the people he/she most influenced. That's why they tell me about it.
Lives were powerfully directed, dramatically altered at times, by the departed loved one. Wow! What could be more special than to help another soul move in a direction they may not have found if not for you? When you hear all the stories and add up the effects and the timing of these interactions between the survivors and the deceased, you unveil a picture of someone who may have no worldly significance - but that's only because the world missed it.
Is this a morbid thought to consider? Well, if it's discomforting to you, that's because you're not getting it.
You may never ride a bicycle a thousand miles, go bungee jumping, drive an Indy 500 car, or pilot a space shuttle. You may never do some of the things that seem beyond your capabilities or outside of your interest; however, you will die. The death rate stills hovers about 100%. And when that day comes, you are history.
Some people would like to rewrite some parts of history. Some politically connected folks do it, as evidenced in certain text books. But there is one part of history you can rewrite. As long as you are alive you can change history. You will leave behind stories that will be told, a legacy that will be considered, and a list of memories by which people will keep you close (or push you away).
You can change history by rewriting yourself.
Our daughter chose to study Anna Howard Shaw, an incredible 19th century American who was a minister, a physician, a reformer, and a key player in achieving voting rights for women. I only know a bare minimum of what she did. With some digging, we'll soon know her character traits and personality, her strengths and her idiosyncrasies.
I wonder: if Anna Howard Shaw had known that an 11-year-old in the 21st century would be studying her life, would she have done or said anything differently? I suppose most people are so busy living in the moment that they ignore the future moments in which they will live again. Through stories told, articles and books yet to be written, or even a Google search of their name, people long-dead come and live in the moment of the one who is handling their name.
You may never become a nationally-known figure. But you are history in the making. If for no one other than your family, you are a star. Or you could be. For someone special, you know you should be.
At the top of this new year, it's good to reflect back on the history that was - and learn from it. Then look ahead at the history that can be. Much will depend on how you choose to write it.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:50pm, both days. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.