Recently I went through two very unique experiences both born out of a simple habit I developed back during my days in college. I’ve always been a sponge for information and love to read…when it’s on a subject I’m interested in. Unfortunately a text-book on political science or history or any other one of the basics I was required to take seemed to have a profound “tranquilizing” effect.
Despite my best intentions to study, these subjects pretty much knocked me out which is a problem. I tried coffee however the extra caffeine didn’t seem to help. Finally in desperation, I came up with the bright idea of taking a walk…along with my textbook. Problem solved. My neighborhood in college was quiet so traffic wasn’t really an issue. I would walk for hours at a time reading or studying note cards especially where memorization was a key in prepping for an upcoming test.
I learned to enjoy these walks so much that even after college, I continued to walk in the late afternoons after work or in the early mornings on my off days from the gym always with book in hand. Daylight used to be a challenge depending on the time of year…especially in the mornings. However, with the purchase of my tablet a few years ago, that problem has been solved.
Needless to say I’ve received some strange comments over the years from people who are amazed that I can walk and read at the same time. The most recent really came out of the blue and reminded me that you’re always on stage and you’re always influencing people for better or worse with the simple actions you take. Remember, one of the most powerful ways we influence people is through modeling.
“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A few weeks ago I was walking in my neighborhood when a car pulled up alongside me slowing to a stop which got my attention. As I turned to look, I was greeted by a young woman who said hello and went on to explain that because of me, she was now “walking and reading”. She said she used to take walks on a regular basis but never thought about bringing a book, until she saw me. It really blew me away because I had never seen her in my life.
She asked where I had learned my unusual skill and I shared about my plight back in college with struggling to stay awake while studying. Once I started, I just never stopped and now it’s totally second nature. We chatted for a few more minutes and then said our goodbyes. I smiled as she drove off thinking yet again how powerful our actions are for influencing people.
Paul’s message in 1 Corinthian’s 8:13 has become a life verse for me because it speaks directly to the responsibility we have to our fellow-man.
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
The second experience occurred on another recent walk with a much different outcome. Sunday mornings are my off days from the gym and I typically take a nice long walk around my neighborhood at essentially the same time I would normally be going into the gym at 5:30AM. In warmer weather, it would be an automatic to bring along my tablet and read. This morning however, it was a little cold and I opted to just take along my trusty 1-iron leaving my tablet at home. While not a replacement for reading, the 1-iron provides a strong “dog” deterrent as needed.
I was dressed in sweats top and bottom and also wore my black wool overcoat which felt nice and toasty. About 15 minutes into my walk I see a car turning around the corner and proceeding down the apartment complex driveway. It was obviously a police car given the full array of lights in high “search mode”. I wondered what or who in the world he was looking for…never thinking for a moment that it was me.
The car pulled to a stop about 50 feet in front of me and while I couldn’t see the officer for the lights, I heard a friendly yet semi-cautious “good morning, can I help you”? I replied “good morning” and asked if there was something wrong. I continued to slowly approach the car to get out of the blinding lights. He asked for my ID and I explained that I literally lived in the building about 100 feet to our immediate left and that I would be happy to go and get my wallet.
He said that wouldn’t be necessary and further explained why he was there. Apparently one of my neighbors called 911 because of a strange-looking guy in a “trench coat” carrying a “crow bar” was lurking around the apartment complex. I was pretty much shocked at the accusation and asked him “how do you get a crow bar from a 1-iron”? I had lived in the complex for the past 1.5 years and walked almost daily so most of my neighbors were used to me.
He was very friendly once he saw that the report was completely off base although he did ask for my name and social security number for sake of “closing the case”. We chatted for a moment and then he drove away. What a bizarre experience! I was again reminded of the power of our actions to influence…even to a inaccurate and false conclusion.
The following week I ran into my apartment complex manager and asked if she would like to hear a funny story. After explaining my little run in with the police officer, she said, “So you’re the one.” My “busy body” neighbor had sent her an email explaining how she had called the cops on me. She obviously didn’t know me specifically so Courtney, our complex manager, had no idea who the guilty part was. She thought it was hysterical since I’m about the least dangerous person you could ever meet.
Closing thoughts for my readers:
This post is obviously light-hearted and yet the take home points on modeling and jumping to conclusions are worth remembering. We influence people every day with our actions and in many cases we will never know the impact of our influence. While my exchange with the young girl regarding my walking and reading was not a big deal, it still hit home big time for me because I had never seen her in my life and yet I had influenced her for the positive.
Who are you influencing with your daily actions? People are watching…I promise.
Then with regard to jumping to conclusions, the following two quotes from King Solomon and Einstein help me to stay on track:
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
“Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance”