There are several truths that I hold dearly that converge in a children's book introduced to me this week. Sandra Johnson, my librarian friend, went out of her way to find this book, The Boy Who Changed the World,to give to my grandchildren. What a powerhouse it is!
The author, Andy Andrews, teaches children how their actions can set off a spark that, in turn, influences the lives of others and that the seemingly insignificant intertwining of several lives over several generations prove to be of significant value to all of us. “Who would dream that a boy playing in Iowa cornfields would save the lives of more than 2 billion people? This is the incredible story of Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug, a simple boy with a desire to feed the hungry--but Borlaug couldn't have accomplished this without the help of Vice President Henry Wallace, who was influenced by inventor George Washington Carver, who in turn was rescued by farmer Moses Carver.”
Somehow, in just a few pages, the book reinforces my beliefs that:
God works through us and guides us.
We have a purpose to accomplish in the days given to us on earth.
We cannot judge whether what we are doing is “significant”.
We are connected to one another in an unusual way.
Something very ordinary can have monumental results.
When I was young, my Dad was my preacher; he loved people and was a voracious reader. Often, from the pulpit, he would tell us true stories of people that he considered great. There seemed to be a common theme of a simple faith-filled person “just doing his/her job”; this job well done would prove in days and years to come that that person's influence had life-changing results. I know that one of these people was Susannah Wesley, the 25th of 25 children in her home and the mother of 19 children, 10 of whom she raised to adulthood. Susannah made a pledge to spend individual time with each of her children each week to share her faith and values. She did little else, except the chores in the busy household. My Dad would just beam as he picked up the hymnal to show us how many hymns Susannah's son, Charles, had written. And he told of another son, John Wesley, who was a great Anglican preacher who influenced the founding of the Methodist Church. I'm pretty sure that Susannah reminded him of his mother, Anne Bass Wiley, who raised 11 children in a tiny house in the early 1900s. Daddy loved to tell of simple God-fearing people who worked diligently, with no applause, and who greatly influenced others. He was a person who truly felt that no smile, word or work was ever wasted.
When I read this children's book, I thought of my parents who could have written it. One of the people in The Boy Who Changed the World is George Washington Carver, who was one of my Mother's heroes. She would read to us (a captive audience in a small car) all about his life and scientific findings, took us to his laboratory at Tuskegee Institute where he worked, and told us of his and his adoptive parents' story often, but this book tells things that she did not know about the influences in his life. People and events (many of which would be called “coincidences”) worked together to bring many benefits to mankind. One of these rescue events told about in the book was the trading of a favorite horse for a boy.
People's actions are viewed so differently today; people's work is no longer seen as a “calling” or a gift they have to give to their community or to the world. And where have we lost the understanding that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”? In my day we were taught to do parenting diligently because we just might be raising a great missionary, teacher, leader, or president; most of us were certainly raising ones who would have families of their own to parent and jobs to do.
Too often today the attitude seems to be, “Who will watch these kids for me while I go to a job where I'm mainly waiting for Friday to come?” I never want to become an old lady who sees the past through rose-colored glasses or as so much better than the present. I love life today, and I see many wonderful things in our work force and in our young parents, but I do sound a warning that you will need to “swim against the current” if you take time to establish your faith, values and work ethic in your children. You have the opportunity to shape future generations in simple ways, but it takes diligence and time and being different from the crowd.
I still believe that your work can be a “calling”. I believe that investing in a child or teen-ager or young adult can have “forever” results. I, like my Daddy, believe that no smile, word of encouragement, or act of kindness is ever wasted. The teachers and adults who influenced me most were not necessarily the smartest or the best-trained ones; they were the ones who took the time to know the real me and love me anyway.Read the book, The Boy Who Changed the World, and be willing to change your world by working “as unto the Lord” and by giving time to the teaching of the values of honesty, gratitude, kindness and diligence in work to your children. (You can reach Pat Bryson at firstname.lastname@example.org).