How do you measure impact?


 This time last week was my dad’s funeral. As you can imagine it was a very moving experience but the thing that most amazed me of all was how many people were there. My dad was a quiet, introverted man whose idea of fun was going over the allotment come rain or shine, or hours in the attic building and rebuilding his model railway (though lately he had discovered the joys of eBay). My mum is the gregarious one of the two. She is always out and about either lunching with old school friends, on some committee or planning her next exotic holiday abroad. So much so, that if I wish to talk to her then I have to almost make an appointment. My dad it seemed didn’t have much of a social life – watching football with a neighbour and the weekly game of bridge with his cronies.

 So I was astounded when 130 people turned up last week to pay their last respects.

 As I got to talking to these people, many of whom I had never met before, I was struck by how my dad had made a lasting impact on their lives in seemingly little ways: a bag of runner beans there, a tip about how to grow onions there, hints on how to improve at bridge.

 What also transpired that this gentle man had a very dedicated work ethic and words like integrity and honesty, which you don’t hear much of today, were used.

 My dad was not a particulary hands on dad nor given to displays of affection, but that day I realised that he has left me something incredibly valuable: a role model of decency and how to make a difference in small ways. This is a big lesson for me. At the moment I know that I have this desperate need to feel that my life is worth something and that when it comes to be my turn to leave this earth that I would have made some positive impact somewhere. Seeing the need globally with daily disasters on our TV screens it is hard not to feel ineffective. But hearing about my dad I came to think that maybe what I had previously rated as greatness and impact were misguided. Jesus talked about giving out of a servant heart and in secret. So maybe sharing allotment tips and doing your best at work day in day out are as valuable as ‘the big things’ if done with the right heart.

  All my life I have been throwing small pebbles into a large pond and I’ve no idea whether I made even the slightest ripple.  I don’t need to worry about that.  My responsibility was the effort.
-Martha Gellhorn.



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