“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” George Eliot

Stepping forward, I extend my hand in greeting, saying, “My name is Rob Hackbarth, a member of the Midtown Optimist Club.”  Recognizing the name of our club, she cheerfully says, “the luncheon!”  Nodding my head, I warmly reply “Yes.”My wife Carol gives her a hug and seconds later we are walking up the aisle toward the rear of the church.  I whisper to Carol, “She remembered!”

Carol insisted that we go to the wake. I had resisted and countered that the young officer’s wife probably will not remember me.  However, she didremember. She remembered our luncheon and the special day when we honored her husband.

Officer Sean Tuder of the Mobile Police Department died in the line of duty on Sunday, January 20, 2019. The following Friday, his funeral service was televised live on local stations in Mobile. I met his wife Krissy, twice in my life. Once, at an Optimist Club luncheon over a year earlier and now at Sean’s wake.

Despite many years of monthly police officer honoring events, I remembered Sean and Krissy. I stood beside the two of them when I shared words of appreciation for Sean’s work. What an incredible officer. Mobile was blessed to have him. He was exceptional. And yet, when he got up to say a few words, he was very humble. Sean thanked everyone for the gifts and the recognition. He emphasized that he was just doing his job. He represented himself as the lucky one. For those in the audience that day, we witnessed an exceptional person of great humility. He loved making a difference.  He was less about talk and more about action.  A person of influence.The kind of person we all want to be and become.

I am fortunate to be part of the Optimist team that honors a local police officer each month. We are the hosts of the honor, and yet, we always leave feeling that we are being celebrated. Interesting how that works.

As we advance in age, the number of wakes and funerals also grow. Over and over again, we will hear the eulogists console families and friends with words of comfort. Often, the stories will proclaim how that person made a difference in our lives. For me, these moments always bring forth questions about my own life.

Have I made a difference?

Am I now making a difference in the lives of others?

How can I be more for others?

 As we contemplate these important life questions, I am absolutely certain of one really important answer. And the answer suggests a template for great success in life. And my simple definition of success is ‘being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be and do in life’.

What is my answer to these fundamental life questions?

We will always underestimate our influence.

If you are like many others, you probably get up each day with the intention of saying and doing good things. It is part of our DNA. We want to help family, friends and co-workers. It’s our job. But, are we helping? Are we making any difference? Those around us seem to be the same people of yesterday and yesteryear. Is what we say resonating? Are the good deeds having any impact? Doubt creeps in.  We face a haunting question. Is this all there is?

The easiest and first answers to these important questions may not point us in the right direction.  The problem that plagues us is that we underestimate our influence. Always. And our underestimation is huge. By a large margin, we assume that what we say and do is not having much effect. And because our appraisal misses the mark, we may pull back on doing that good deed. We may be silent when we need to speak. We may hesitate.

Perhaps, I will not say anything at this moment even though I want to say something. Perhaps I will not do what my heart is telling me to do. Perhaps, this is not the right time. Perhaps . . .

We will always underestimate our influence.

Hi, my name is . . . 

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