Don’t judge each day by the harvest your reap but by the seeds that you plant.
-Robert Louis Stevenson, 19th century
Again this week I participated in a Memorial Celebration of Life for a person who had a wide and powerful impact with his life. Like Betty Metcalf, there were powerful witnesses shared about the deep impact Steven Mainster had on individual lives. Unlike Betty Metcalf who was involved in many levels of the community which were highly public, both in her role as a State Legislator and in her leadership roles in many voluntary associations like Rotary and the League of Women Voters, Steven was involved in community organizations that worked primarily with people who are not so recognized in the public and therefore for many people his work was more hidden.
Steven Mainster devoted his life to working with indigenous and Spanish-heritage people in the Americas. This work began in the Peace Corps in Peru in 1964, but it became a life-long work among farmworkers, first in upstate New York and then in Miami. In 1973 Steven co-founded Centro Campesino, and organization devoted to improving the lives of farmworkers in Miami-Dade county and he served the organization for over 30 years as Executive Director. Some of the words of tribute expressed by the people he worked among included:
– Mr. Steve was one of my great mentors in the summer program in my younger years.
– A strong pillar and warrior for the people, especially the youth.
– Hemos perdido un gran hombre, un gran ser humano. (We have lost a great man, a great human being.)
– He is an icon in our community.
These two experiences, so close together, have led me to reflect about who have been my mentors that have had a transformative impact upon my life? I am not thinking about those people who were positive teachers and mentors in my life who helped shape in general terms who I have become. There have been many of those people. But I have been thinking this week especially about those people who had, what you might call, a dramatic impact on my life.
There was Pastor Friz, the Senior Pastor of the UCC church my family joined when I was in high school. He gave me a private confirmation class experience and talked to me already as though I was a peer and colleague, though I was still a High School student. He gave me my first intimate view into the life of a pastor. Then there was my college creative writing teacher, Aden Ross, who put me in touch my talent as a writer and opened up an entirely new world for me. Up until then I was training to be a scientist and mathematician and never thought of myself as a very good writer. One more I will share with you, perhaps the most influential, was the Rev. George Fidler, my supervising pastor for my internship the first summer of my seminary training. As I look at my work as pasto I can see over the years, and still today, many ways in which work was shaped and influenced by my time spent with Pastor Fidler in Cullman, Alabama.
One of the regrets I have is that many of these people and others who had such a formative influence on me, I never told. Many of them have died and I can no longer thank them and share with them the great impact they had on my life.
So there are two things I learned from the past two weeks. First, we rarely ever know just who we are influencing and what impact we are having on their lives. So it is good to keep Robert Louis Stevenson’s suggestion in mind and judge our days and our work by how many seeds we plant rather than by the harvest. We may never know the full flowering and fruiting of our efforts. Second, when we become aware of the impact others have had in a positive, transformative way we should be sure to share that with them. It may be an awareness that comes some years later, but don’t hesitate to reach out, reconnect and let them know what impact they had. It will be a special blessing for them to hear about the way the seeds they planted in your life blossomed. It will be a special gift you can offer them, rather than just to those who attend their funeral.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida