I took a semester of Intro to Psychology in college, and let’s just say that I’m not the next Sigmund Freud. I guess that’s good, though, because he was kind of a nutcase. People had told me the course was super easy and interesting, but I barely passed with a C- after a meeting with the professor.
I’ve tried to block most of that class from my memory, but the one story I remember is when our professor asked us all when we would think that we were successful. Some students gave answers like, “When I’m owning my own business,” and “When I get my doctorate.” He called on me and I thought for a second and then said, “When I know that I am making a difference.” I still believe that, despite the C-.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the most influential people in the world. I’m probably in the same city with a lot of the folks that many would give that title to, but none of them have really changed my life. I think it would be really cool to meet President Obama, but he won’t be invited to my birthday party. It turns out that the people this world has heard the least about have changed my life the most.
There are a number of people I would list to you if you asked who has influenced my life the most, but right now I will only talk about one—Pastor Carl Thompson. He was my pastor for years and honorary adopted grandpa. Literally the biggest honor in my life was getting to give a eulogy at his funeral in May 2012.
I knew Pastor Thompson and his family since I was born. All through my adolescence he was my pastor in Belleview, FL. Even before that time, my family would drive up to Jacksonville just to see him and his wife for the day. He was my Sunday School teacher, lunch buddy and counselor. He and his family would come to watch me play basketball in middle school. We’d eat lunch together literally every Sunday and spent every Christmas Eve and Christmas together. He first introduced me to Jenga. (Kids, Jenga was a game people used to play back when people didn’t have smart phones and iPads.)
I moved away to college about 90 minutes away from his church and would try to go out and see him as I could. I’d drive out to Belleview Assembly of God and walk through the quiet church to his office. We’d talk for hours. He was one of those guys that you couldn’t usually have just a quick chat with. I’d ask him about anything I could think of, or had been questioning, about God, the Bible and life. After the first few of our get-togethers I literally started taking notes. One time I even brought my friend Swain with me because I thought he needed to get in on all the wisdom.
Every time I left a dinner with he and his wife, or just time in his office, I always left with absolutely no question as to whether or not I was loved. I just knew it. He’d pray with me, encourage me and remind me that my life was not as off course as I’d feared, and in many ways quite similar to his own past. That’s a special quality I noticed about him and I pray for it over my own life. I want people to leave time spent with me with the knowledge that they are loved. I’m not sure I’m doing a good job of it so far, but I’m working on it.
It’s hard to put into a brief post all the lessons I’ve learned from him and held dear over the years, and I assume I’ll write about many of them in the future.
I would be devastated if I were to talk to Pastor Thompson in Heaven and have him tell me that he was unsatisfied with his life because he didn’t have 5 million Twitter followers or a NY Times best seller. I would feel like all the time I’d spent with him wasn’t enough to be proud of. I don’t think he would ever say that to me, and I think now he is reaping the rewards in Heaven of a life lived for Christ and for others. I bet he is seeing dots connected that he never even knew were there.
I’ll say it again—The people this world has heard the least about have changed my life the most. It’s not about numbers. It’s not about how much money we can make or how well people end up knowing our names. It’s enlightening and sobering all in one punch when you realize that the point of life is not about your accolades.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Carl Thompson, but I have. And God sure has. His is a legacy that I want to live out with my own life. I want to make a difference in the lives of others because people really are that important. I believe that we carry on the legacies we choose to. What’s yours?