I walked into the choir room at Mounds View High School a little anxious. It was my first day. Eighth and ninth grade at Lake Johanna Junior High had not been easy. Moving to the area right before eighth grade began, those two years were lonely. Being overweight, I also got picked on a lot. Though I had grown four inches over the summer while losing twenty-five pounds (ten weeks with dysentery in Spain), I was scared the new school year would only bring more loneliness and bullying.
When I walked into the choir room during third period, Mrs. Ness directed me to the back row where the basses sat. The only seat open was next to another tall guy with a smile on his face.
“Hi, I’m Kentso,” he said. “Welcome to the basses.”
Over the next few minutes, Kentso talked with me. He made me feel welcome. My anxiety left the room before the first bell rang. Mrs. Ness, the choir director, introduced herself to begin class and then told us a brief outline of what the coming year looked like. Then she introduced the elected officers. I wasn’t surprised when she told us Kentso was the choir president. Kentso had that way about him. He was friendly and nice. There was also this quiet confidence. I looked up to him. He was the kind of guy I wanted to be like. As I sat there, I wondered if anyone would look up to me like that when I got to be a senior.
When my senior year rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get to choir during third period. At the end of my junior year, the choir had elected me president. I couldn’t wait to greet the new choir members like Kentso had greeted me. I couldn’t wait to see what it felt like to have people looking up to me. I met a number of the incoming sophomores as they walked into the room. Then Mrs. Ness introduced me as choir president, just like she had introduced Kentso two years before.
When class ended, I left the room a little confused. It was nice to be introduced by Mrs. Ness, but I hadn’t felt any accolades coming from any of the students. In fact, I didn’t feel any different than I had when I wasn’t choir president. Why didn’t I feel special like Kentso was special? I hoped I would begin to feel special as the year went on. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I kept feeling like I always felt. I wondered if I just didn’t have the characteristics my friend Kentso had shown. The year ended as a big disappointment.
Four years later, I was walking out of Rosedale Mall when I ran into Kyle. Two years younger than me, he had joined choir when I was a senior.
“Hey, Brian! How’s it going?” he asked me.
“Good,” I replied. “You?”
“Good, too. I just finished my sophomore year at Concordia College. I’m having a great time in the Concordia Choir.”
“So you kept singing,” I responded.
“Yeah, it felt like a continuation of choir at Mounds View. I loved choir. You really made it easy for me that first year.”
“I made it easy?”
“Yeah! You were great. I remember that first day. You showed me where the basses sat and then made me feel like I belonged. I really looked up to you.”
He really looked up to me? I thought back to that time and nothing stood out that first day. I remembered welcoming people, but had no idea he felt the way he felt. Had I made that kind of impact after all? Maybe I had more influence than I realized.
Just because you don’t know you’re having an impact on others doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Every day you are having an impact. Sometimes you’ll know it. Most of the time, though, you will have no idea. I never told Kentso his positive impact on me. I wonder if he knows. Part of me wishes I had told him.
I am also sure that we have a lot more control over the impact we have on others than we realize. I didn’t have to greet those new sophomores their first day in choir. I could have ignored them and just minded my own business. Ignoring them would have also had an impact on them. I’m just not sure I would have heard how much it was appreciated four years later. I’m glad my impact was positive.
What kind of impact do you want to have?