If what makes people important is the number of lives they touch, the people they influence and impact, and the overall effect of their lives on their situations, the community, and the world, then Patrick is an important person.
At my daughter's school there's a busy intersection just before the place where children are dropped off. Every single car and bus that drops off students has to pass that spot each morning, and that means they have to pass Patrick.
Patrick is the crossing guard who directs traffic, but he doesn't just wave cars through. He dances them through, he delights them through, he entertains them through, he high-fives them through, he loves them through. Rain or shine, heat or sleet, he's there in good spirits. You can't pass Patrick without feeling a sparkle of joy, humor, and uplift. Nobody, in my opinion, at that busy school touches more people's lives with a more positive influence every day than Patrick.
So how did Patrick get to be so "important"? Did he scramble up a corporate ladder, making astute career moves as he went? Did he battle to get ahead in politics so he could make a name for himself? Did he publish a best-selling book or become a movie star? No. Patrick just loves. He loves God, his job, the day, the people he's helping, the weather, and the school as a whole. He's living proof that it's the love we express that makes us effective and important.
Christ Jesus, whom many think of as the most important man ever, lived this approach in his work, too. Others around him wanted to make him into a political or a military figure, but he humbly fulfilled his mission through love. He healed and helped people everywhere he went. He didn't try to promote himself, but rather the good news that the kingdom of God, God's allness and goodness, were ever-present and built into everyone as God's likeness.
When asked what the most important thing was for people to do, he said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39). He counseled his followers repeatedly to love each other and said that love was the fulfillment of all that they were supposed to do.
I've come to understand this to mean that our very function or purpose is to love. Since God is Love and the source of our being, then we are created and expressed by Love. The expression of Love naturally loves, just as the sunlight naturally shines. What makes the sunlight important is the fulfilling of its very function or purpose to shine. What makes us important is the fulfilling of our purpose to love as the response to God.
You could be standing in line at the grocery store, riding on a commuter train, walking down the sidewalk, or planting crops in a Nebraska cornfield, and if you did that job with love, it would transcend the activity itself and become a powerful blessing to yourself, your family, your community, and the world.
I'm learning from Patrick's example that we don't have to wait for something important to do to be important; we just have to love. I'm learning from Jesus' example that loving is the thing we do naturally as the reflection of Love. Since it's natural to love, then it's natural for us all to be important, and we can start to prove this by loving where we are, what we are doing, and who we are with right now.
It is Love which
paints the petal with
myriad hues, glances in
the warm sunbeam,
arches the cloud with
the bow of beauty,
blazons the night with
starry gems, and
covers earth with loveliness.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)