With Memorial Day just a few weeks ago and Independence Day right around the corner, this time of year we often think about those who have gone before us and the legacies that they left behind. We often reflect back on those who have fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy as well as our forefathers and foremothers who have been instrumental in providing us with the lives we now live.
But, how often do we consider that we too will have some influence that will carry on through generations to come?
I once heard an analogy of comparing a person’s identity to a tree. Just as no one believes that their driver’s license photo is a true representation of their identity, you cannot fully understand a tree without considering its branches and roots.
One of my ancestors is John Howland. He was born in England around 1592. As an indentured servant he accompanied John Carver and the other 100 Mayflower passengers. During a terrible storm he even fell overboard, which typically would have meant certain death; but he miraculously was able to grab hold of the topsail halyard rope that was trailing behind the ship and was pulled back on board.
I’m sure that throughout the difficult trials and harsh conditions that he faced during the voyage and the following years of trying to start a new life, he wasn’t thinking about how this would affect me 400 years later. He just wanted a better life and the freedom to worship as his conscience dictated. But, I can see how this has traveled through the generations to me and I hope to project it on.
As I have tried to learn more about my ancestors, it has occurred to me that although they all had their flaws (some more than others), I am who I am because of each one of them. Obviously, the most influential were my parents. I owe much of my own convictions and values to how they lived their lives. Both of them had a strong work ethic and integrity. My father is humble and quiet, and my mother is one of the smartest people I know. It’s my hope that despite my own failings, that my children will take the best of who I am and do even more with their own lives.
Every one of us are the sum of our own roots, trunk and branches. We are also a root or branch to not only our own families, but also to all with which we come into contact. A simple smile, hello or thank you can affect someone’s day.
If we want this world to be a better place, we need only to affect our own small little world. Stand up for what’s right and teach these principles to our children. It may seem small, but over time and generations that influence can be what makes this world a better place.
Mark D. Fullmer is Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Gilroy Ward. He is an active member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. Bishop Fullmer can be reached at [email protected].