When you think of an influential person who do you think of? Does your opinion change if I ask you who has had the greatest influence on you? What if you consider the world’s standards rather than your own? Driving down the road yesterday I heard the latest list of most influential people of 2010. Any guesses as to who they are? If you guessed either of the Obamas you’d be guessing right. Also included on the list were Lady Gaga, Sarah Palin, Conan O’Brien, Oprah, Taylor Swift, and Bill Clinton. At least they didn’t include Tiger this year. I’m not going to debate the presence of any of these people on the list. I don’t write that kind of blog. However, I was confined to my car for close to 12 hours yesterday so I had some time to reflect upon who has had the greatest influence on me in my life.
My answer? Well my Sunday School answer would be my parents and grandparents. And they have. I’ll admit I’m who I am because of so many wonderful things they have taught me over the year. If they had not chose to adopt a child I have no idea where I would be today. I also can think of a number of teachers and professors that invested a great deal in my life. In this chapter of my life my wife and children have a great deal of influence on me. And yes you can learn a lot from a child. My father-in-law has even impacted me the past 12 months (even for the positive!).
But when I sit down and think long and hard about those that influenced my life to the point that I am who I am today the list is narrow. Engrained in my mind I envision pictures of a select few orphans that hold a special place in my heart. There are two groups of orphans that helped set the stage for who I have become. Both sets came on my first trip to Romania and Russia. One orphanage was in Romania and the other was in Russia. The details of our visit are not relevant to my point but I will carry the images to my grave. The second group of orphans to push me further to the point I’m at today were those that attended Camp Lapusna in Romania the summer of 2000. Inevitably it was young siblings Cosmin and Ioana that stole my wife’s heart while we lived in Romania and consequently stole mine as well. But probably more than any other orphan there were two that I still pray for each night almost five years since they changed my life: Janis and Andrei.
Janis and Andrei lived in a remote country orphanage in Latvia. I was honored to take a team to their orphanage where we spent an entire week living in the orphanage. No doubt this 24/7 presence had a huge impact on everyone. My relationship with Janis and Andrei was solidified almost upon arrival as we hit the hardwoods and played some basketball. It was a simple game of two-on-two and the language barrier was somewhat present. However, we seemed to play for hours. What resulted was an immediate trust. I’m not going to go into extensive details of our week but two stories still haunt me each night. The first is the 15 year old Janis asking me to rock him to sleep like a baby our last night at the orphanage. We concluded the night with his request that I pray for him by name which was immediately followed by him praying for me by name. The second was the 18 year old Andrei clinging to me as he wept like a child upon our departure. Andrei knew he was only months away from having to leave the orphanage due to his age. He’d never opened up to anyone before and he didn’t want me to leave.
These are the people that truly posses the ability to impact our lives for eternity; not someone that has a weekly T.V. show, not someone that can crush a golf ball 300 plus yards, and definitely not someone that spends all her time singing about her “poker face.”
I hope you will take a few minutes to think about the people that you would consider most impactful in your life. If an at-risk child or orphan does not come to mind I challenge you to add a line to your bucket list: Impact the life of an at-risk child or orphan. I promise you will discover they will impact your life more than you will ever be able to impact theirs. Aspire to new heights.
4 weeks ago