A few years back, my daughters were complaining that I could never recall their friend's names. I told them the harsh truth: I didn't remember their names because they weren't important to me. Even though that sounds arrogant and a bit mean, it is exactly what happens to all of us. If something or someone doesn't impact us in a valuable way, we forget them/it. Plain and simple.
In 1974, our family picked up and moved to Wenatchee, Wa. It was quite a change from Chehalis and the western side of the state... you know, the part that rains 10 months a year, and supposedly makes everyone miserable? Wenatchee is sunny 300 days a year and arid in climate. The mountains were known for turning different shades of brown, depending on the season. Occasionally, there were specks of purple in the hills, which would tell you it was Spring. Really.
By August of that year, we had settled in to the new area, and I had made some friends. We spent a ton of time by the pool, which made sense given the late Summer temperatures. I remember standing just outside the gate to the pool, when a tremendous explosion knocked me to the ground. I also remember looking up towards the sky thinking that maybe it was the end of the world, and that Jesus was coming to destroy the world: Oh, the funny things we think when we don't clearly understand our situation.
I heard shouting, where a boy across the complex was calling out to us, telling us to come and look at what he was seeing: The giant mushroom cloud pictured above. Nobody knew what had happened, but it obviously wasn't normal. Later that day, we found out a tank car at the railroad yard across the valley had exploded, under mysterious circumstances, and killed 2 people. We'd hear through the grapevine that one was named Mr. Jones, and I remember briefly thinking that perhaps my father had died somehow.
Wreckage was scattered for miles and the explosion was so great, a small fire took hold on the opposite side of the Columbia river. The opposite side of a giant river. That's some serious kaboom mojo.
When you're 8, you tend to remember moments like these. You're old enough to remember them for the remainder of your life, but how you remember them is what's so interesting. As I brought this up recently, my brother, who was 6 at the time, doesn't recall it at all, yet he was standing right next to me at the pool. My mother, who was in her early 30's by now, recalled it but it was more the explosion ruining her windows than it was about the details of the explosion, and there you have it. Our experiences are based on how something affects us. It's not a selfish thing, but it is a human experience and one that translates across all age groups and cultures.
We recall how something affects, and perhaps even moreso, infects us. It's how it takes hold of our consciousness and plays out. There's a great art movie, by David Lynch, called Lost Highway. In it, Bill Pullman's character, Fred, says something very profound regarding his role in the movie: "I like to remember things my own way. Not necessarily the way they happened." The idea of watching a video tape of the events that transpired in his life was repellent because it would change his perception and he liked his recollection of events, even if it meant bad things for others around him.
When we create relationships, either for personal or business reasons, we bring our expectations to the table and in so doing, we may fail to affect others in a memorable way, even when we know with absolute authority that we did our very best to serve them. This happens simply because we aren't answering what's in it for them. We haven't taken the time to truly dig in. We've unintentionally come with our own agenda and that can feel unfair and distracting. If we create a memory for them, it's most assuredly negative.
If you're reading this blog today, I'd encourage you to slow down in your next conversation with someone. Be memorable by listening and serving them. When you do this small act, you'll change their perception of you and with that you'll discover your greater purpose, because you'll be speaking into their lives with conviction and servitude.
What are you doing today to impact others in a way that you'll be recalled for a lifetime?