The Factor of One

By: Joyce Shafer

I watched a PBS series titled, “Road Trip," where the narrator took his parents (married 60 years at filming time) around the States in an RV. This documentary’s attraction was its reassurance that in spite of certain differences, we have more in common than not with our fellow man.

Sometimes when we watch such a couple, we focus on the surface of what we witness. In this instance, the wife was nervous about bridges, big trucks that passed them on the highway, and frequently went to stand in the bathroom at the rear of the RV until the moment that frightened her passed. The father was jovial, loved to sing, and would climb onto his soapbox about issues that were important to him, in particular how the common man is the unrecognized foundation of society. So, what was under the surface?

The son revealed that his parents’ first child was a daughter who did not live long. The four brothers grew up aware they’d had a sister and that their parents preferred not to speak about that loss.

The son said he always wondered how their lives would have been different had their sister lived, that the factor of one, whether with us or gone from us, can have a profound effect.

In the final minutes of the last segment, the father sat peacefully at the end of a pier that looked out over a serene lake in a wooded area. The son commented that his father was always ready to sing and laugh despite the fact he had buried a child, fought in a world war, lost his fortune and retirement twice, won over cancer, sustained a marriage for six decades, and with his wife raised four sons into good men. He said when his father left the Earth no one would name a street after him or take special note of him in history. Yet, he left a quiet legacy that would affect several generations because of who he was and how he chose to live his life. Akin to the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life," his factor of one touches and influences every person he interacts with, most especially his family.

We all have occasion to feel overwhelmed by events; and in such moments, we may temporarily forget our significance to the bigger picture of our lives. Our own factor of one creates ripples at all times. We never know when one seemingly simple gesture, word, or kindness on our part reaches into the heart of another and makes a difference.

Every moment of our time on Earth is a pebble dropped into a pond. We may be aware of how we affect those nearest to our center point, and forget to be aware of how far the ripples may travel. Each of us creates a legacy; and as with the quantum universe, the size of it is irrelevant. Every ripple is a thread in the larger tapestry. Perhaps we can remember that we are weavers and seek to ensure some of our threads are ones that endure the tests of time and merit.

Motivation
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