Time Magazine just published its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. I didn’t make it. Shucks.
Ed Ruscha did. I’ve never heard of him. I don’t know what he does. And I’m fairly certain he’s never influenced me. Nor had I heard of Wang Shu. Or Joaquim Barbosa, Andrew Sheng, Mary Nichols or Don Yeomans……I am sure they are all outstanding men and women but I’m still searching for their direct impact on my life. In fact, I did not know 85 per cent of the people on the list. Did I sleep through something?
I had heard of Justin Timberlake but I can’t tell you one song he sings. I couldn’t understand why Jimmy Kimmel was included but I’m in bed when he comes on TV. LeBron James was the most familiar name on the list. Well, and Barack Obama. My basketball days are way behind me and if Dwight David Eisenhower, Bill Clinton and George Bush didn’t influence me, I don’t think Obama has a chance.
And please, hear me this morning, I’m not knocking any of these people, I am proud for them. They obviously have a lot to offer. And I am not making light of the office of the President of the United States. They are all great men. What they do might effect me……but, let me tell you, there is a world of difference between “effecting” and “influencing”!
My Father did influence me. As in, “When you go down that row, son, turn your hat around backwards, I want you to be pulling so much corn I can’t tell if you are coming or going!” Even as he chided us to “work a little harder” he was always the one doing the most work, lifting the biggest logs, pulling the heaviest load. He didn’t have to yell a work ethic into us, he taught by example.
Daddy also told us more than once, “Be careful boys on who you listen to; make sure they are worthy of your attention and trust.”
Miss Carolyn Blades influenced me. She taught from the first day I walked into her classroom that studying hard pays off. She didn’t exactly say “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” but that was her message. She loved the ABC’s into us.
Bobby C. Melton influenced me. He was big and fast and could spin on a dime. When I was in grade school I’d go to the high school football games just to watch him run. He picked his knees up so high and he’d slice into the off-tackle hole! I was going to be just like him someday!
Mrs. Charlie Mitchum was the first older person outside of family that took an active interest in me. She would stop and talk to me just like I was an adult! She was kind and she was always telling me what a fine boy I was. By high school I would take my dates by to meet her and see if she approved…..which, of course, she always did. I steered away from some trouble I saw my friends get into partly because I didn’t want to disappoint Mrs. Mitchum. She was so positive and upbeat and caring. She single handedly changed my thinking about elderly people. Now, that is influence!
My teenage friends held a great sway on my life in those formative years. If Ricky and Buddy thought it was cool, so did I. If Skip liked the “Kingston Trio”, I bought their albums. If Squeaky could kick a half dollar off his heel and flip it into his shirt pocket, I was going to practice until I could do it to. We didn’t look to national magazines, the new fangled television or world leaders for direction. We scratched out our path by mostly observing the ones closest to us.
We don’t always have to think individuals when we are talking influence. I have made a career out of writing about the little West Tennessee town I grew up in. How they shaped me, molded me, influenced me. And I couldn’t for the life of me single out one particular part of that town that touched me the most. Maybe it was the magic coming out of the movie theater. Or the way everyone turned out for the homecoming parade or the 4th of July celebration. It could have been Mr. Holland delivering the milk with a wave and a smile. Or the loud hullabaloo abounding at Frank’s Dairy Bar……or the quiet sereneness of the town square late at night. I appreciated then, and more so now, the conservative, solid, small town values that were so lovingly instilled in me.
Maybe Time has lost sight of what has made us such a great nation. Maybe they just made up that list to sell magazines. Or maybe, quite possibly, Time (time) has simply past me by.
If the editor had consulted me, I would have added Billy Graham to the mix. I don’t care that he’s a tad older now with perhaps one foot already in Heaven. If he is alive, he should be on that list! And I would put Avery Lee and Hannah Colbert in there, too. They are my two youngest granddaughters and they can get me to do anything and everything they want me to. If they point to it, I buy it!
Ed Ruscha, Wang Shu, Justin Timberlake and Barack Obama can only dream of influence like that!