By Bob Ramsey
It’s funny how lives connect and intersect in surprising and unexpected ways. Sometimes, out of the blue, another’s life may impact your own.
Likewise, you never know how or when your behavior may change someone else’s life—at least, a little bit. Seemingly inconsequential acts can influence others in unpredictable ways without you even knowing it. It can even occur across time and space.
For example, I recently ran into a former co-worker I hadn’t seen in a long time. Immediately, he related that he had just found a letter I wrote on his retirement over 25 years ago. He had never forgotten that letter.
Back then, it had buoyed his spirit and given him a sense of pride in his accomplishments. And now, he experienced these same positive feelings all over again. My little letter turned out to be a gift that kept on giving for a lifetime.
A better example: my experience with Rev. Dale Turner. In 1955, Dr. Turner, a popular Congregational minister in our Kansas college community, married my wife and I. Shortly thereafter, we began our married life in another city and had no more contact with Dr. Turner.
Almost 30 years later while visiting Seattle, I read the Sunday edition of the hometown paper. A column by a local minister caught my eye. Then I noticed—the author was Dr. Dale Turner.
Upon returning home, I wrote that Dr. Turner in care of the newspaper and said I enjoyed his column and wondered if he could possibly be the same Rev. Turner who married us a quarter of a century ago and half a continent away. I said if he was the same pastor, he must have done something right, because our marriage was still intact. But if he wasn’t that minister, I enjoyed his column anyway. Then I waited to see if I would get any response.
A week later, I got a packet in the mail. Inside was a letter from Dr. Turner indicating that, indeed, he had married us years earlier. He wrote that he was now retired, but continued to write his popular weekly column.
The packet also held a published collection of his writings. Reading them inspired both my wife and I. Through an accidental encounter, Dr. Turner had ministered to us once again.
Another 20 years passed. Then one day as I pondered what to write about in this column, I tore a leaf off my page-a-day calendar and saw this uplifting quote on “vital aging:”
“Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.”
It was written by Dr. Dale Turner. Wow! Spooky, isn’t it? I’m sure he is deceased by now, but Dr. Turner managed to touch my life again in a meaningful way.
The point of these examples is simply that our lives have ripples and repercussions. We can’t foresee how far the effects of our daily actions may reach. A simple gesture, word or deed can make a difference in another’s life. This fact doesn’t end because we retire. Or qualify for AARP. Or hit 75.
People over 60 sometimes feel powerless, ineffectual and irrelevant. These folks are missing the point. Regardless of age, something you say or do (or don’t do) will affect someone else. It may be a family member, loved one, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, caregiver, shop clerk, mail carrier or stranger. Intentionally or unintentionally, you will make a difference. In fact, you can’t help but influence someone, sometime, somewhere. This is another good reason to remain active and engaged in the community and doing the next right thing as long as possible. Your legacy is the influence you have had on others.
Bob Ramsey is a lifelong educator, freelance writer and advocate for Vital Aging. He can be reached at 952-922-9558 or by e-mail at [email protected]