The power of personal impact is immeasurable. My dad died over 25 years ago. I don’t remember the exact year because I still feel his presence and don’t think of him as gone. No, I am not crazy, just really tuned into energy. And maybe a little crazy.
Dad was a humble man, committed to sharing a message of love and making a difference. He wasn’t perfect. He cursed a lot on the tennis court, as did I, only he did it in Spanish. We argued sometimes, but mostly we hung out. I did schoolwork while he wrote his sermons, and I used his old briefcases to play “office.” He was my hero. I still talk to him, get his thoughts on things, ask for signs. And I swear, he checks in every now and then.
I recently got involved in a Facebook discussion about North Riverside Baptist, his last church. I mentioned that my dad was the pastor there, many years ago. And that’s when the comments came flooding in:
- Joe Strother was the reason we started attending NRBC!
- My family loved your Dad.
- Joe married my husband Chuck and I. I loved Joe so much. He was such a humble man.
- Your dad was wonderful! I grew up going to North Riverside and your dad married my husband and me in 1989! We adored him!
- My parents were chartered members of NRBC. I was baptized there too. Your dad was wonderful and he married my husband and I on May 23, 1981.
At last count, there are more than twenty comments about dad and more being added as I write. I read each and every comment, fed by the memories, and along the reading journey I noticed a few things. There were not any comments about his educational achievements (two master’s and a doctorate), nor about the most amazing sermon he ever preached (and there were many). There was nothing about the fact that in the 20+ years that I listened to dad’s sermons, he never repeated one.
Every comment, instead, reflected how he touched the heart of those around him. As I read through them it reminded me of a quote by Maya Angelou:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I’ve used that quote hundreds of times, but I don’t know that I ever realized how well my father lived it. Dad has been gone for a quarter of a century, and yet the memories shared on Facebook are fresh and filled with love. I feel the energy in their words, and I feel his spirit in every single recognition.
Dad didn’t build megachurches, nor did he spend time buying big houses or displaying his degrees. He was a Shepherd, serving his flock and valuing every sheep no matter their background, education, or opinions. No matter what people did he forgave them even as he held me back from knocking their lights out. He taught me that hatred came from fear, and the biggest bully was the most afraid.
Recently, I received an email from a dear friend with whom I recently reconnected after 40+ years. We knew each other between the ages of 8 and 11, and are both amazed at how our conversation picked right back up like we’ve never been apart.
In one of our conversations, I asked if she remembered what I was like as a kid. This is a lot to ask 40+ years later, but she graciously and thoughtfully sent me a beautiful email in response. In that email she said:
“I’m not sure if this helps, but what I remember is not so much what you did or said, but mostly how you made people (including me) feel . . . you would talk with anyone, from babies to 94 year olds, they were all the same..like they were ageless. Every person mattered, every animal mattered, you SAW them.”
And that meant everything to me.
So, dad, sometimes I get it right. I want you to know that your life made a ripple in this world that continues to have impact. And thank you for staying in touch, even if through other people’s message. By the way, I got the crow feather. Thank you.
And to those of you reading this blog who have touched my heart, I will always remember how you made me feel.