Today while running a couple of errands I passed by a cemetery. As I looked at the multitude of gravestones that covered a piece of land so large I couldn’t see the end of it, I began to think of all of the lives that had walked this earth that are no more. Each and every one of the thousands of gravestones in that cemetery represents a person’s entire life.
As I pondered the life of Jan Summons (Born 15 Dec 1845, died 7 July 1923. Loved wife of Charlie. Adored mother of Lucas, Jacqueline, James and Adam), I began to wonder about what kind of a home she was born into. How many siblings did she have? What were her passions, her talents? What heartbreaks did she experience throughout her life? What legacy did she leave behind for her children?
It occurred to me that Jan’s life was lived very long before I was born. Before my mother was even born. Yet a very strong understanding came over me that knew, my own life would probably have been significantly different, perhaps even non existent had it not been for Jan. Allow me to explain.
We have all heard of the butterfly effect. One motion causes an effect which continues into a series of events that ultimately influence the conditions of our settings. Whether it be the company we are in or the store we are shopping in. It could mean rocking up late to a meeting because the lady driving the car in front of you on the way to work had a prang with another car, because she was texting her sister who had just got engaged while on a holiday. A man that you don’t know somewhere in the world proposes to his girlfriend, and the next minute your boss is furious with you because you’re late for work. One small thing sets off a series of events that ultimately, somehow, affect every one of us. Like dropping a pebble into water, it causes waves to ripple around it effecting the movement of the entire pool.
Although I don’t know the intimate details of Jan’s life, I do know she lived in my city. Her children probably lived here at the same time my grandparents were here. And their children most likely lived here as well. Knowing that there are only two-three degrees of separation in my city, my parents and Jan’s grand children probably either crossed paths or interacted with common associates at some stage. Any of these interactions would have determined a duration of time that, lets say my Father, spent in that conversation and as a result such a meeting could have seen him coordinate his day in accordance with that interaction.
To give you an example, let’s say my Father’s work client, who was Jan’s grandson, one day needed help using a product. That meeting meant my Father finished work late, and due to the time it now was, he and his friends decided to go to a low key bar rather than out on the town, which they had originally planned to do. And that happened to be the night my parents met each other. What might have been otherwise? I may never have been born.
Now I’m not saying that this is exactly what happened, but really think about it. Look back on just your last week and think about how your movements were influenced by events and situations around you. Everything leads to the next thing. And what came before you, everything, everyone, every detail of every moment, led to this moment right here! Just where you are. Exactly as it is. That had to include Jan. The intricate web of life that is responsible for you being here in this very moment was weaved with her, and without her, the web would look completely different.
My point in all of this is this; an entire generation lives today because Jan once lived on this earth. That includes you and me. It would be easy to look at that vast array of gravestones and feel no connection to the lives that at one stage walked this earth, because we weren’t alive to know them, but their presence alone actually worked together with each and every other element and effect of some cause that made it possible for you and I to be alive today.
We can’t even comprehend what we are capable of producing in this world. If you ever feel insignificant, just think of Jan. That if it weren’t for her, you might not be here today. And that generations will come to be because you are here right now.
Now, knowing all of this, what part will you play in your influence on the world? What legacy will you leave behind? What state will you leave the earth in for the generations to come? What dreams and passions will you leave evidence of? What will your imagination bring to life and allow the children of tomorrow to use as resources or to draw inspiration from, or to learn from?
Whether you already know it or not, by just being here you impact tomorrow’s world. What you do today will affect what happens tomorrow. You can choose what kind of an impact you will have. What kind of difference you will make to the world. How will your presence be felt in 50 or 100 years? What is alive in you that will live on after you leave this world? How do you choose to live?