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Once upon a time there was a man named Dave. He was a good man. He was married to a woman named Ann. Like her husband, she was also good. Together, they raised two beautiful girls. They were the kind of couple that put family first (after only God). And so their girls grew up secure in the knowledge that they were loved, that God was good, and that home was a nice place to be.
Ann and Dave owned a lovely little trailer in a beautiful place called Muskoka. When they weren’t able to use their trailer themselves, they decided to make it available to other families. To spread the joy around a bit, so to speak.
One of those families had three little children and one income. But the dad worked hard at his job and the mom worked hard at home and the kids did what kids do, so being able to take a vacation together at Ann and Dave’s trailer felt like a wonderful gift. For it was a place where the kids could safely run free. And the days would be filled with picking wildflowers, building sand castles, catching frogs, and reading good books. In the evenings there would be campfires and star gazing, puzzles and games, singing songs and sharing hugs.
Ann always made sure the little family felt pampered: she would scrub the trailer before they came and leave it well stocked with an assortment of magazines for the adults to read and games for the children to play, lovely notes and baskets of goodies on the kitchen table to welcome them.
The first year the little family went there, their oldest daughter broke a lamp that had been a wedding gift to Ann and Dave. The family felt terribly. But Ann and Dave were gracious and kind. And they let the family go back to their trailer again the next summer. And the next. And the next after that. And every fall, they invited the little family to use the trailer in order to experience the beauty that is Muskoka in the autumn.
And so as the children grew, they grew with memories of happy, family times spent relaxing in God’s beautiful creation. And they grew with the knowledge that those memories were possible because kind strangers had willingly shared out of the abundance that God had given them. Eventually, the little family was able to buy their own trailer in Muskoka.
By then, Ann and the mom had long since become friends. They only met face-to-face on two occasions. But as the years passed, they emailed and spoke occasionally on the telephone, and at Christmas they exchanged cards. They prayed for each other’s families. And they rejoiced at the news of all the good things that happened in one another’s lives.
But then one day, Ann sent a different sort of email. She and Dave had been on vacation far away with one of their now-grown daughters and her two children. They had had a wonderful time. But on the night before they were to return home, Dave suddenly took sick. He got so sick, Ann took him to the hospital.
“Within a short time at the hospital, the doctor called me in and said Dave had suffered a massive heart attack and was ‘gone,’” Ann wrote. “The doctor told me Dave didn’t suffer and was in no discomfort.” There were hundreds of people at the visitation, and hundreds more at the funeral. “A wonderful tribute to Dave,” Ann said.
When I read that email (for I was that “mom” and mine was the “little family”) I admit I cried: for Ann, for her two daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren. They will miss Dave dearly. Life will be very different for all of them without him.
And then it struck me: I was mourning for a man I’ve never met. But through choosing to be kind to a family he’d never met – over and over again – Dave had a significant influence on our lives. So I’ll always be grateful for his life. He used what influence he had to let his life shine.
“God has called us to shine … Let no one say that he cannot shine because he has not so much influence as some others may have. What God wants you to do is to use the influence you have.” – Dwight L. Moody (1837 – 1899)