Monday, September 17, 2012

What Difference Makers Really Look Like

We live in a star-struck, celebrity-centric society. We love to hear about the comings and goings, fumblings and failings of the rich, famous and powerful. Whether top athletes, movie and TV stars, or public figures, we seem to hunger for news about what their lives are like. Who is Taylor Swift hanging out with these days? What craziness are Tom Cruise and Charlie Sheen up to? What about Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or the latest famous-for-being-famous celeb?

Even the British royal family gets into the act. Apparently we all want to know what they’re wearing or, more recently, what they’re not wearing. (Hey, even the royals must understand the virtues of an even, all-around tan.)

Trophies tarnish, but personal
influence lasts forever.
But is being a bonafide member of the “Who’s Who” set all that important? Think about this: What are the most prestigious awards or honors a person could receive: A Nobel Prize? Academy Award? An Emmy or a Grammy? Win a Super Bowl?

List the last 10 winners of the Nobel Prize – in any category. Name the last 10 Academy Awards for best picture, best actor or actress. Who won the Emmy for best comedy in 2007? Or won the Grammy for best album in 1998? Who won the Super Bowl in 2003?

A meditation I read recently by Max Lucado brought this to mind. As he points out, after people receive acclaim for being the best in their respective fields, “the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten.”

If recognition and media attention are as important as we tend to think, why don’t we have these accomplishments etched in our memory banks?

Contrast these forgotten, fading stars with people we will never forget, Lucado suggests: Ten people who taught you something worthwhile. Or five friends who helped you during a difficult time.

You can identify these people right away, can’t you? Because they made a real impact on your life. They spent time with you, invested in you, cared for you. For you, they were difference makers.

That’s how Jesus transformed everyone around Him – He spent time with them and they observed His life. In the case of His closest disciples, it was three years, 24/7.

The apostle Paul understood the importance of personal engagement. “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). This was no hit-and-run, whack them over the head with the Bible event, but an ongoing process of genuine care, compassion and concern.

So worry if you like about how someone you’ll never meet is doing – Jennifer Aniston, Elton John, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. As for me, I’m more interested in people that know me and care for me. And I want to try being like them with others.

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