I checked my notifications on different social media platforms this morning, and at the top of my Facebook, there was a reminder to wish one of my friends a happy birthday.
He went to paradise last September.
I stared at the cheerful reminder to reach out and let someone know that you’re glad they’re here, and I flinched. I had only met this man once but he was wonderful in the week I spent around him, and I imagined the pain so many others would feel when they saw this notification as well.
I know it’s Martin Luther King Jr. day. He was someone who did a lot of great things and so much good in this world, I’m glad we remember to recognize his accomplishments and efforts, and I’m not downplaying them, but today I want to talk about another great man, for all the great men and women that don’t have a national day.
As I said before, I was only around Mr. Spencer for a week on a mission trip for an organization that he was the beating heart and soul of.
I could tell you a lot about him just from that one week.
I could tell you about how he would sit across from you at lunch with a shine in his eyes as he started to tell you amazing stories from former mission trips he went on, some funny, some sweet, and some heartbreaking.
I could tell you about the way he would be wide awake with so much enthusiasm for the day at five in the morning, waiting for the rest of us to get up and get going on the buses to go out into the villages.
I could tell you about how sweet he was to the children and to everyone else around him.
I could tell you about how he taught us to sing hymns in spanish.
I could tell you about how he tied everything back to God.
But… I think I’ll tell you more about his impact.
I wasn’t able to go to his funeral, but I tuned into the live.
“Spencer was my best friend,” I heard true heartbreak and pain in that man’s voice.
I heard stories. I heard about the ways he helped people get their life on track. I heard about his encouragement to others, his friendship, his good influence. People thanked him with tears in their eyes and hope in their hearts because none of us truly said “goodbye” to Spencer. It was just a “see you later,” a “see you when I get home.”
One of my favorite things to do in my downtime on my mission trip in Panama two years ago was to talk to people and hear their stories.
They told me about their pasts full of darkness and hopelessness. They told me about overcoming abuse, drugs, alcohol, and the rest of the traps and immoralities of the world. They told me about the light, and then, they told me about Spencer.
They spoke of how he had helped them find a purpose despite their past and current pain, how he had helped enable them to serve the Lord and His church even more.
The way some people looked at Mr. Spencer would bring a tear to anyone’s eye. The respect we all had for him was more powerful than the earthquake that we woke up to one night that week.
The lives he helped change are countless, some of those stories will go unspoken, and in a few years, the spoken ones may start to be forgotten, but he had an impact, and I know more people are going to heaven because of him.
The world was a better place with him in it, even if a lot of the world never even knew who he was. God knew and knows him, and he helped many other people to know who God was. That’s what matters.
“We don’t matter much,” a friend told me once, “at least, I don’t.”
“That’s not true, you know it’s not. Think of Job, he had everything taken away from him and yet he still praise God and God still loved him.” I said.
“I am not Job. I am not Elijah. I am not Moses. We are not significant like that, we don’t get Bible stories written about us. Nothing matters much.”
At that moment, I thought of so many people, so many ordinary yet extraordinary believers. Spencer was one of them. “Do you think he and so many others didn’t make a difference?” I asked my friend, “We might not know the names of the Christians that have been persecuted to death for the faith, does that mean they don’t matter? Does that mean their lives, their devotion, and their sacrifices mean nothing?”
We sat in silence for a while, and I thought about all of the amazing people I have met in my two years of being in the church.
I am tired of the world and all of the fame and glory of it convincing us that we need a noble peace prize in order to do good and make a difference.
I’m not saying that noble peace prizes and other honors like that haven’t been well earned in the past, but listen, reader, you don’t need to have one to matter.
My friend was right in some ways.
Your story is not going to be one people go to for application in the Bible. Maybe you won’t have a national holiday after you pass. Maybe there won’t be any books written about you or inspiring movies filmed. Maybe your name will cease to be spoken after the rest of your loved ones pass. Maybe your gravestone will resemble the faded ones of veterans at old cemeteries, the words in the stone no longer legible, just a faint reminder of a life lived.
Maybe all you’ll be is a Facebook notification, an Instagram account that was never deleted, someone’s great, great, great, great grandmother/grandfather on an ancestry DNA website one day.
Maybe if we reduce life down to just that.
Or maybe, maybe, just maybe, there’s more to life than recognition.
People film themselves feeding the homeless and post it on social media all the time. I have so much respect for the people that don’t. Maybe no one will ever know about your kindness to a stranger, but that stranger knows, it mattered to them.
Maybe no one will ever know about the time you talked someone out of suicide at three a.m., but that person knows. You made a difference to them, their loved ones, and all the people that person will bless throughout the years they would have stolen from themselves.
Maybe no one, including yourself, will ever know that the reason someone ended up going to worship and finding salvation was because of a track you handed out without even a second thought.
Maybe no one will ever know that your smile made someone’s day a little brighter.
Maybe no one will ever know that your kind words made someone feel human again and helped give someone the strength to fight on.
Life is made up of little things and small moments.
Sometimes when I’m driving, I like to take a second to realize that all the people in the cars around me are, well, people.
They have lives, they have hopes, they have dreams, and they mean the absolute world to someone if not multiple other people.
Sometimes when I’m babysitting, it wows me so much to look down at the baby in my arms and realize that one day they might save lives, be someone dependable, someone kind, someone who loves others, and someone that has so much potential to do so much good in this dark world.
I’ll never know even half of the names or stories of the people I drive by daily, and I probably won’t remember half of the names of the children I have watched, but they still matter.
Everyone means something to someone.
And everyone has the chance to be more than just someone to God, He has called us children. He has called us loved. He has created us with purpose. He has never made a mistake.
To sum it all up, yes, Martin Luther King Jr. made a huge impact.
No, you do not have to be recognized or famous like him to make one as well. You are not helpless, you have no excuse not to try because your actions and words do mean something, and they always will. You are capable of changing lives, one often unpraised and unacclaimed action at a time.
So, thank you. Thank you to Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mr. Spencer and all of the other people that did their best, that made a difference and touched so many lives for the best.
Thank you to the people who remind us that you don’t have to be great to help make a great change in other’s lives.