Yesterday, I ran into a childhood friend who I knew through martial arts several years ago. It was only by chance that he ended up behind me in the Bob’s check out line at 8 pm on a Monday evening. As I stood in line with my mom, I caught a glimpse of the familiar face, and my head immediately flashed to what Seinfeld would have said to the social awkwardness of reconnecting with an old acquaintance who may or may not remember you.
As I was debating whether to turn around and greet him, or send a fleeting glance over my shoulder, I heard behind me: “Amanda?” I reeled and beamed with delight at the memories that instantly flooded back. We chatted, shared stories, and laughed, as our poor mothers were left with only a slight knowledge of who their child was talking with. In that moment was that simplistic joy, that is pure, and often sought.
I found strangeness in the fact that this old friend who I hadn’t seen in three years and would be entering his senior year in high school, had not changed one bit since I last saw him. But my mom pointed out later that both of us had undergone great physical changes, which is most likely why the mothers were at a loss for recognition.
My only logical explanation for this is: the people dear to our hearts, or those who earn special roles in significant points in our lives, never alter. Physically and emotionally they may grow as people, but through my eyes he was still the 8th grade boy I knew as I was completing my last year of elementary school. This begs the question: How much of what we do influences others around us? Personally, I don’t think we realize how much influence we have in our environment.
I didn’t realize how much of a friend I had lost when C.J. quit martial arts for other sports, and it hit me when I ran into him yesterday. Back then, we had bonded over the shared secrets and a mutual understanding of the other’s situation, in a time when the majority of our other friends were quitting to begin their teenage years with a “clean slate” so to speak. Being the last left of our group of friends, we had a memorable connection, up until the time when he quit, when we then lost touch. Now that we’ve reestablished contact via Facebook, it will be interesting to see what’s changed in terms of UMAC then and now, and how we’ve changed since we were kids.
And of course, as someone’s influenced my life, I’ve influenced another’s. I recently found out that a friend (with whom I’m afraid to say I’ve lost consistent contact) had been explaining to her parents how she wished certain aspects of her life were similar to mine. I was unaware that she had been admiring my privileges, and the way I live my life, from afar. I was flattered, but felt blind that I hadn’t even noticed or acknowledged my ability to live my life as someone’s role model.
As I’ve completed my freshman year of high school, I’ve seen how precious life really is. A senior who I didn’t know passed away due to a speeding accident — he wasn’t even the one driving. I’ve seen students come together and take hold of their ability to positively influence their community, and raise thousands of dollars for charity, and much more. On Friday I’ll be flying out to South Dakota for a week with some other high schoolers and several mentors from my church. We’ll be going to an Indian reservation called Pine Ridge, located in South Dakota. You may have heard rumors about it being one of the toughest places in the west, known for its third world style of living, and multiple gangs. We’ll be building houses and aiding the people, hopefully having a positive impact on their lives.
I think back to a favorite Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life, and how George Bailey gets a peak into how life in his small town of Bedford Falls would be different, had he never been born. I won’t spoil the movie for any of those who haven’t seen it (although I do highly recommend it), but the moral of the story is this: Our lives are valuable, and the amount of influence, known or unknown is truly incredible.