I love the story of Ruth in the Old Testament. Here was a woman who had lost her husband, and yet so loved her mother-in-law she was willing to forsake her culture, her family and her country to remain with her. Obviously, Naomi had a profound impact on Ruth and influenced her greatly.
Just as Ruth was influenced in many ways by Naomi, everyone has been influenced by the many women in their lives. Some may never know of the full impact of that influence. Each encounter with each woman in your life leaves a mark on your soul, helping you become the person you are.
Women often play a variety of roles throughout their lives and each one provides an opportunity to influence those that enter a woman's sphere of influence. Whether as a teacher, friend, sister, aunt, mother or grandmother, each woman can use those encounters to shape and influence the character of those she meets.
Eugene P. Bertin said, “Teaching is leaving a vestige of oneself in the development of another. And surely the student is the bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures.” One teacher who left a most valuable treasure with me was Marian Marriott. She taught my church youth class when I was 16 years old. One of her most memorable sayings was, “It is always nice to be around grateful people.” Every time someone said thank you or expressed gratitude she would repeat this. She taught me the importance of being grateful and of expressing that gratitude.
Sometimes the influence of a teacher has nothing to do with the formal lessons being taught. My fourth-grade teacher was an imposing person in stature and demeanor, and I was a bit afraid of her. Yet, she taught me the importance of providing a sense of comfort to those who were sad. I cannot even remember what brought on the tears, but one day I was sobbing at school. I do remember her scooping me into her arms, setting me on her lap and hugging and comforting me until the tears stopped. I became a little less afraid of her that day, and extremely grateful for a teacher who took the time to comfort a sad little girl.
Girlfriends often have great influence on us as well as on our children. Because our family has moved around a lot, I have often found the need to rely on my friends to help me through trials, encourage me to take risks and listen to my dreams. I love knowing that my children have other strong women that can have an impact on their lives. One dear friend drove eight hours to see my son perform in his school play. She then turned around after one day to drive back home.
A sister knows you inside and out, your faults and your strengths. A sister also doesn't care. She understands you better than anyone because she has the same upbringing and memories. Amy Li said, "Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of. You know whatever you do, they'll still be there." I love knowing that if my sister needs anything she will call and that I can do the same to her.
Aunts often have a confidence in you that others might not see. As a child my Aunt Carol allowed me to help feed and care for her twin baby girls. I loved learning to care for them even though I was still young myself.
Grandmothers have the ability to make you feel like you are the most wonderful person on the planet. Mary DeMaree said, "Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete."
My grandmother always made me feel special. She always made a cake and homemade ice cream for each grandchild's birthday. Because my sister and I share a birthday month, we often celebrated at my grandmother's on the same day. Yet, Grandma would ask each of us what kind of cake we wanted. Sometimes it was the same type of cake and yet we would arrive and there would be two cakes — one for me and one for my sister.
Mothers teach you and mold you into the person you become. When you are a child, your mother's influence permeates your life. As an adult, that relationship changes into one of mutual respect and love.
One year my mother gave me a pillow that says, "Always my daughter, now too my friend." As adults you and your mother can develop a friendship of extraordinary bonds.
Women have so many opportunities to influence the people around them. That influence may motivate others to make huge changes, or it may change them in small and imperceptible ways. But each encounter can be like the hymn says, “Each life that touches ours for good reflects thine own great mercy, Lord.”